Fans stay away … again

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - RACING - JAMES PHELPS

SU­PER­STARS, sun­shine and empty seats.

The NRL’s big­gest names and per­fect weather failed to fill Syd­ney’s best sta­dium with the lat­est ad­di­tion to rugby league given a luke­warm wel­come.

Fol­low­ing a Fri­day fail­ure when Bankwest Sta­dium recorded its low­est rugby league crowd, the World Cup 9s again failed to win over Western Syd­ney. With the NRL de­liv­er­ing Ka­lyn Ponga, Ja­son Tau­malolo and Josh Addo-Carr for what they promised would be a two­day party, only 15,684 turned out to watch the lat­est in­car­na­tion of the short form.

“I wasn’t ex­pect­ing a huge crowd,’’ said Aus­tralian play­maker Ben Hunt. “It is the first tour­na­ment of its type and there hasn’t been a lot of ad­ver­tise­ment and pro­mo­tion. I think there has only been a cou­ple of weeks of ad­ver­tis­ing be­cause of the grand fi­nal.’’

The tim­ing of the tour­na­ment should be scru­ti­nised. While all pre­vi­ous short-for­mat events have been held in the pre-sea­son — ap­pe­tis­ers for footy starved fans — the NRL de­cided to sched­ule the first 9s in Aus­tralia two weeks af­ter the grand fi­nal.

IRL boss Nigel Wood re­vealed that Amer­ica and the Mid­dle East are in con­tention to host the next World Cup 9s in 2023.

“This is the first of a two-stage agree­ment and we will host it again in 2023,” he said. “I think it is ca­pa­ble of more. It is a great op­por­tu­nity to take the sport to more coun­tries and North Amer­ica, the Mid­dle East and Europe are all pos­si­bil­i­ties.”

The New Zealand women’s team cel­e­brate their fi­nal win last night.

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