Australia's favourite football code? It's not even faintly in dispute if crowd attendances are anything to go by, and the clear cut winner is the AFL.
The AFL just smashed a number of records over the weekend, with 400,401 people coming through the turnstyles. This was:
- The first time total attendance had surpassed the 400,000 mark'
- Almost 30,000 higher than the previous best ever round (371,212 in round 13, 2015), and;
- About 32,000 higher than the previous best round one (367,792 in 2012)'
- A whopping FOUR TIMES HIGHER than the total crowd of 100,975 who attended the first round of the NRL.
"The opening round was littered with upsets across the nine matches and also saw high quality football which rewarded the loyalty of our fans, who couldn't wait to be back at the footy," AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said.
With their appetites whet by eight weeks of women's footy culminating in an upset grand final win to the Adelaide Crows, fans flocked to an enticing round of footy, for which the people who do the AFL fixture must take full credit.
Huge crowds attended the Carlton-Richmond season opener on Thursday night, followed by the match between Collingwood and defending premiers the Western Bulldogs on Friday night.
Then on Saturday, the Essendon Hawthorn derby attracted 78,000 fans. These clubs have played so many big matches, often in grand finals. This match had a different flavour. Here was a Hawks side with Jarryd Roughead returning from skin cancer treatment, and the Bombers with their banned players back after their supplement saga suspensions. Essendon produced the boilover. The red and black are back.
The other six matches were all good contests too, with no blowouts. All of which points to an even season ahead. And while crowds won't top 400,000 each week, they're unlikely to dip too far below 300,000.
The NRL? Well, their round one numbers were brought down by Sydney's prolonged rainy spell. There was also no match in Brisbane, which robbed the league of an extra 20,000 or so paying fans.
But in the NRL's round four, played in fairer weather over the weekend, only 120,000 fans attended in total. This included a match in Brisbane where the usual 30,000 people turned up.
The average across the eight games was still in the 15,000 range, which is not much more than the A-League's average of 12,400 so far this season.
Remember also that the F1 Grand Prix was on this weekend in Melbourne -- and that the event lasts all weekend, not just for the couple of hours of Sunday arvo racing. The fact Melburnians still attended footy in droves while that was going on will please the AFL suits no end.
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