A big crowd at GIO Stadium could have been on hand for the Jersey Flegg grand final. Picture: Getty Images
A big crowd at GIO Stadium could have been on hand for the Jersey Flegg grand final. Picture: Getty Images

Grand stink: Raiders rage over venue snub

Canberra chief executive Don Furner has lashed out at the NSWRL for allowing this season's under-20s Jersey Flegg grand final to be played in front of 29,000 empty seats - rather than 27,500 full ones.

Furner lobbied the NRL and NSWRL to have the Flegg grand final between Canberra and South Sydney switched from Bankwest Stadium on Sunday to GIO Stadium as a curtain-raiser to the NRL preliminary final between the same two clubs on Friday night.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg had supported a switch but NSWRL chief executive David Trodden opposed the move.

"But, no, no, too hard for the NSWRL to show some vision," an angry Furner said.

"We can't accept that it can't be changed. Instead, they will now play it at Bankwest in front of nobody."

Trodden could not be contacted by The Daily Telegraph but rejected the shift of venue in a phone call to Furner, arguing the match had long been locked in at Bankwest Stadium.

Furner said the under-20s match, as well as three other junior grand finals, would pull a crowd of just 1000 to 2000 at Bankwest Stadium.

He said the young players would have thrived before a sellout crowd of 27,000 at GIO Stadium in Canberra.

 

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A big crowd at GIO Stadium could have been on hand for the Jersey Flegg grand final. Picture: Getty Images
A big crowd at GIO Stadium could have been on hand for the Jersey Flegg grand final. Picture: Getty Images

 

Furner even offered to pay for South Sydney's under-20 side to stay overnight in Canberra. He said Souths' medical team would be in Canberra for the NRL match, anyway.

Canberra also thought that with Fox Sports and Channel 9 cameras already set up at GIO Stadium for the main game, the under-20s clash could have been televised, too.

"They should make a decision in the best interests of the game," Furner said. "They could have played in front of 27,000 people here in Canberra and be together with their first grade team.

"These kids never get the chance to play in front of such a big crowd. They will now play in front of a ghost town out there at Bankwest.

"They could have lined up with their first grade sides, same dressing room, same staff.

"He (Trodden) got back to me and said it was too hard - something we can't accept. We go to Sydney every week to play the finals.

 

Bankwest Stadium is expected to be largely empty for the Jersey Flegg grand final. Picture: Getty Images
Bankwest Stadium is expected to be largely empty for the Jersey Flegg grand final. Picture: Getty Images

 

"There is no game before our first grade game, nothing scheduled, no women's game.

"Further, and this is what I put to him, the Flegg grand final wasn't scheduled to be covered on Fox Sports on Sunday, anyway.

"If it was, and they had a spot there on Fox Sports for two hours about the Jersey Flegg game, and they had nothing to fill it with, I could understand not upsetting the broadcaster.

"But it isn't even being covered, so they can't use that as an excuse.

"Here is a chance for two batches of young kids to play in front of a massive crowd and be part of the build-up with their own senior clubs. It couldn't match up any better."

Canberra will move 2500 temporary seats into GIO Stadium, increasing the ground capacity to around 27,500.

The NRL is expecting a rush on tickets and the match to be sold out by Wednesday.