Big crowd expected for Charity duel
Organisers have not given up hope of nudging capacity at WIN Stadium after the Dragons and Rabbitohs pledged to bring full-strength sides for the first Charity Shield match outside Sydney.
Early ticket sale figures for the traditional preseason clash have officials forecasting a crowd more than 15,000 – easily eclipsing the Dragons’ pulling power in Wollongong last year.
Provided there is a strong walk-up crowd, there is even hope the Charity Shield turnout could be the biggest rugby league crowd at WIN Stadium for almost two years.
More than 17,000 people turned out for Josh Dugan’s first appearance in the Red V in 2013, but St George Illawarra’s gate fell sharply in the second half of the season as they remained anchored near the bottom of the ladder.
“Ticket sales have been strong and certainly demand over the last week, in particular, increased,” Dragons chief operating officer Michael McDonald said.
“With three days of pre-sales ahead of us and anticipation of a strong walk-up, we’re certainly looking at an attendance in excess of 15,000. The level of pre-sales over the coming days and walk-up will decide whether we push towards the house full.”
South Sydney fans will be salivating at the prospect of seeing Greg Inglis and soon-to-be code-hopper Sam Burgess in action for the first time.
Dragons coach Steve Price named star recruits Gareth Widdop, Joel Thompson, Dylan Farrell and Sam Williams in his squad as he tries to prevent South Sydney from winning the shield for a fourth time in five years.
McDonald said both clubs had tried to make it easy as possible for Sydney-based fans to travel to Wollongong.
“We’ve actually put some work in with CityRail to get trains coming through Redfern and Kogarah to go down to Wollongong and back,” he said.
“We’ve got members’ buses for both clubs coming and we’re making it as user-friendly as possible to get down to the Illawarra.
“My message there would be to pre-purchase or arrive early. We’re looking at getting into Saturday with limited seating and general admission available.”
WIN Stadium, which will only host four Dragons home games this year, won the hosting rights for the clash after ANZ Stadium was double booked.
US rapper Eminem is scheduled to perform at Homebush on Saturday night.
ANZ Stadium only drew 19,630 people to last year’s Charity Shield game – a figure WIN Stadium could top with a surge in ticket sales leading up to the twilight kick-off on Saturday.
The Charity Shield has been solely the domain of Sydney since its inception in 1982.
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