Grand final fizzer
By ADAM WRATTEN
MURWILLUMBAH may lose the right to host future rugby league grand finals after a "disappointing" turnout at Sunday's inaugural Northern Rivers rugby league competition decider against Seagulls.
In fact Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League president Robin Harley yesterday suggested all future grand finals should be held at Lismore's Oakes Oval, allowing the league to maximise gate takings with a big crowd.
However, Murwillumbah president Nigel Lofts yesterday dismissed Harley's suggestion, which would require the approval of a majority of clubs to be introduced.
Lofts said the league had shot itself in the foot by not allowing cars into Stan Sercombe Oval, a decision that kept fans away.
Seagulls had opted to have the match relocated from their home ground at Piggabeen, fearing it could not cater for expected crowds of up to 7000, with parking facilities in the event of rain having been the main concern.
Instead, a crowd of about 3000, including non-paying children, attended Sunday's grand final, which Seagulls won convincingly 44-18 against the Mustangs.
Gate takings were well down on the $34,000 the league pocketed from last year's Group 1 grand final between Lismore's Marist Brothers and Mullumbimby.
Harley would not reveal the figure yesterday, wanting to inform the clubs at a board meeting next Monday.
"It was disappointing, we expected more people," Harley said.
"There were extenuating circumstances, such as Speed on Tweed and a hockey grand final.
"(But) apart from the clubs represented there were not too many supporters from other clubs there. Maybe this is a pointer of things to come and the way things are going."
He said Lismore's Oakes Oval was his preferred venue.
"As far as I'm concerned we need to appoint a central venue for the grand final," Harley said.
"Then we can get a good cross-section of fans from the other clubs."
But Lofts doesn't believe a bigger crowd would have turned out if Sunday's final had been played in Lismore.
While he acknowledged the crowd was not as big as expected, he said the decision not to allow cars into Stan Sercombe Oval had hurt.
"It would have been much bigger without a doubt," Lofts said.
He said the clubs had already voted against a central venue, opting for the top team having the right to host the game.
Meanwhile, Harley praised Seagulls for the smooth running of the day.