ANZ Rabbit plague
Frustrated Panthers supporters to be outnumbered at ‘home’ final
LIKE thieves in the night.
Nearly 25,000 South Sydney fans are set to steal Penrith’s treasured home preliminary final on Saturday night.
And further frustrating Panthers supporters is having to play the big match at South Sydney’s home ground, ANZ Stadium.
Despite their team being runaway minor premier and earning a second home final through a week-one finals victory, Penrith fans are expected to be outnumbered by rabid Rabbitohs supporters who are planning a thunderous red-and-green fan ambush.
Well-placed sources are tipping a 60-40 crowd split to Souths, meaning up to 25,000 Rabbitohs fans would converge on Sydney Olympic Park.
The South Sydney supporters’ bay sold out within hours of tickets going on sale.
“Penrith have had a season for the ages and they are not getting any reward for it,” Penrith legend Mark Geyer said. “It is a Panthers ‘home ground’ because they finished higher on the ladder.”
South Sydney CEO Blake Solly said: “We would love for as many of our members and supporters to get to ANZ Stadium on Saturday night to create a ‘home’ game for us.”
Under NRL rules, all preliminary finals must be shifted from suburban grounds to major sporting venues.
Which means Penrith won’t play at Panthers Stadium and instead will move 41km east to Souths’ home ground for the past 14 years.
Despite COVID seating restrictions, the NRL can allow a 50 per cent ground capacity for all finals games.
That means 40,000 fans can attend the ANZ Stadium preliminary final, while only 11,250 could have watched at Panthers Stadium.
“I know a lot of the members at my gym who are Panthers fans went online yesterday and missed out on tickets because they were snaffled up by South Sydney supporters,” Geyer said.
“But if you want to win the grand final you have to do it on ANZ Stadium. If they are good enough, they will beat the Rabbitohs.”
South Sydney was always certain to pull big numbers given its sparkling form, which has included scoring 144 points in its past three games.
“Penrith have had a great year on and off the field, and their supporters created a fantastic atmosphere at Panthers Stadium for their win against the Roosters a few weeks ago,” Solly said.
“But we know our members and supporters love watching the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium, and the form of the team and attractive style we play has them so excited. From talking to our coaches and players, the backing of our members and supporters in the stadium means a lot to them.”
Supporters group The Burrow wants bays of ANZ Stadium full of Rabbitohs fans.
The group posted on Facebook: “We ask that those who want to attend the game with opposition fans look at sitting elsewhere. It’s not fair with these limited numbers for other ticketed members to miss out because an opposition fan has taken a spot. (There are) plenty of other places to be.”
Penrith champion Ryan Girdler said: “ANZ Stadium is where the grand final is. I don’t have an issue if you play there the week before. It gets you ready for the big one if you get through.”