The return of the NRL brought the sporting community together from all over the world, but an all-time prank from fans has left some in stitches.
The NRL reached out to fans ahead of the season’s restart, during the coronavirus pandemic, and offered them a chance to send in their photo to be used as a cardboard cut out in the empty stadium.
'UNWATCHABLE': Fans divided over NRL's 'weird' fake crowd
But eagle-eyed fans spotted numerous pranks littered throughout the seats during the Rabbitohs and Roosters clash on Friday night.
One included a fan excited to see his dog feature on national television.
Another prank has gone global after fans used their $22 to send in a photo of Boris Johnson’s top advisor Dominic Cummings.
Cummings is fighting for his career after travelling from his London home to Durham and back during the coronavirus lockdown.
Fans from the UK switching on to catch some sport couldn’t help but have a laugh at the ‘Aussie banter’.
NRL launches ‘fan in the stand’ initiative where supporters pay $22 to ‘take their seat’ during games behind closed doors.— Gary Carter (@GaryCarter_1979) May 29, 2020
👀 Good to see Dominic Cummings testing his eye sight in Parramatta... pic.twitter.com/cQJghzTWUk
Dominic Cummings spotted among fans at NRL showdown in Australia 👀 pic.twitter.com/T7dzz2GJhu— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) May 29, 2020
NRL putting cardboard cutouts of fans in the stand. Wait... who's that? pic.twitter.com/st6jYrMZD1— Jason Sinclair (@jlsinc) May 29, 2020
Spotted: Dominic Cummings at the Roosters v Rabbitohs game in the NRL in Sydney.— GoalScorer Challenge (@GoalscorerC) May 29, 2020
This is great banter, it really is. pic.twitter.com/OCV5gqNVxQ
I see the NRL in Australia have a sense of humour pic.twitter.com/lQJlgdH0qC— Ridgesilk (@ridgesilk) May 29, 2020
One fan even asked for Agent Smith, from the movie The Matrix, to be used throughout the crowd.
can everyone please send in photos of agent smith from the matrix to be in the crowd for NRL games pic.twitter.com/TU6CQ166M3— Aaron Wallace (@wallyscr) May 28, 2020
But overall, there was just some fantastic photos used in the crowd.
NRL world divided over virtual crowd
One issue that is particularly divisive for fans is the use of artificial crowd noises to complement the broadcast.
Obviously with no supporters inside the stadiums, the match broadcasts lose that special atmospheric quality that only comes from the sounds of thousands of fans screaming uncontrollably from the stands.
So Fox Sports have introduced artificial crowd noise into the broadcast, providing a constant background of generic crowd sound effects to complement the coverage.
The lack of crowd noise was particularly noticeable in round two of the NRL and Fox Sports is adamant that its inclusion makes for a better audience experience.
“The stars of the game are the players, not the audio effects. But having them makes for a better experience,” Fox Sports’ head of television Steve Crawley said.
“What we add will be subtle so we can still hear big hits and players communicating.
“Our audio guys have developed a world-class solution to a unique problem and we think it will be adopted elsewhere during this time.”