The NRL and Cronulla Sharks have received some surprise support from Roosters captain James Tedesco amid the debate about whether PointsBet Stadium is suitable to host a finals game. The Sharks and Roosters will lock horns on Saturday night in an elimination final between the sixth and seventh-placed teams.
The game will be held at PointsBet Stadium because the Sharks are the home team, and suburban grounds can be used during the first week of the finals. But thousands of fans will miss out on attending the game because of the reduced capacity of 13,500 due to the redevelopment of the adjoining leagues club.
Some have suggested the game should be held at a bigger venue like Allianz Stadium or CommBank Stadium in Parramatta. However Allianz is the Roosters' home ground, meaning the Sharks would lose the advantage they gained from finishing higher.
The NRL gives clubs the choice of where to host their first-week finals match. The league moved away from the use of suburban grounds in 2011 to limit the number of fans being locked out of finals matches, however they made a return in 2019 due to the redevelopment of several major stadiums in Sydney.
Almost all seated tickets for the Sharks-Roosters clash sold out within an hour of the members' pre-sale beginning on Monday morning, with only single seats available by midday. A limited number of tickets have been held back for the general public on Tuesday, but the match is poised to sell out shortly after they go on sale at 10am. The Roosters and Sharks have 34,000 club members between them, while the two clubs have a combined average crowd of 36,000 this year.
Penrith great Greg Alexander said over the weekend: "The rules should change. You have to go somewhere that holds more than 12,000 people. You can’t have one part of (the ground) under construction. Sorry Cronulla people, I'm taking it out to CommBank."
Former Roosters player and coach Brad Fittler somehow claimed that Allianz would be a "neutral venue". He said: "Are we going to get 10,000 at Shark Park (rather than) take it to Allianz?"
James Tedesco sides with Sharks amid finals venue furore
But Roosters captain Tedesco doesn't agree. The NSW and Kangaroos skipper said on Monday he has no problems with the game being held at Shark Park, despite the fact it means thousands of fans will miss out. "It's the right way to do it, especially when they deserve the advantage for finishing higher than us," Tedesco said.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said the league has no plans to go away from suburban grounds for the first week of the finals. "At this stage there is no plan to change anything," he said. "The important thing to remember is there are four weeks of finals.
"Week one it is about rewarding a club for where it finished on the ladder, and those fans. They have worked really hard to get into the position to be able to host a final."
"Our position is unashamedly that we want investment in community assets. We want suburban grounds. We want investment in Shark Park, that can hopefully lift capacity over time and give a great experience. That is absolutely our strategy."
Wade Graham calls for upgrades to Shark Park
Sharks captain Wade Graham said: "For the first round of the final, we've earned that right to play there. That's where our members and fans love to come.
"It's our home, we train there, our lockers are there and we're there every day. Hopefully, in the future we can get that fixed and get a stadium the community deserves."
Cronulla great Paul Gallen told Wide World of Sports: "Why should other clubs get the advantage of choosing their finals venue, but the Sharks be forced to take their game somewhere else? People are suggesting Allianz Stadium should host Saturday's game against the Roosters. Get stuffed, no way. As if Cronulla would willingly take a home final to a venue that is in the middle of the opposition territory. That would be ridiculous."
Why do sharks fans only think it’s roosters fans complaining. Everyone hates shark park https://t.co/OceddMtBbA
— elyse (@elysevw) September 4, 2023
So all decent seats at Shark Park for Saturday's Final were snapped up before most fans could even log into Ticketek. I suppose we can hope that next season the Sharks get to play Panthers, Storm, Broncos and Roosters more than once so they don't get a saloon ride to a home final pic.twitter.com/Y8VDHiHx9g
— Alan Katzmann (@Katzo60) September 4, 2023
Common sense would say move Sharks v Roosters to a bigger ground than Shark Park. Let the fans watch the footy.
Sadly, rugby league has never been big on common sense. pic.twitter.com/jBSdVMX0JW
— The Mole (@9_Moley) September 4, 2023
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.