Finals bound: The Brumbies will play in the Super Rugby play-offs next week and early fans will celebrate with free pies and parking. Photo: Jay CronanThe ACT Brumbies are using free pies and parking to lure a big crowd for their Super Rugby quarter-final against the Otago Highlanders at Canberra Stadium on Friday night.
Brumbies interim chief executive Phil Thomson was unconcerned about recent poor crowds and was confident the magnitude of Friday’s game would help turn that around.
They had just 9830 turn up for their victory over the Queensland Reds on a freezing Canberra night two weeks ago and then 9387 watched their lacklustre win against the Western Force on Saturday.
Former Brumbies boss Michael Jones had predicted the Super Rugby club would make a $1 million profit this financial year, but his payout and lower-than-expected crowds led to chairman Robert Kennedy admitting they would likely record a loss instead.
But a good crowd against the Highlanders would help bolster their depleted coffers.
Thomson said it would also increase their chances of getting a home semi-final the following week.
If the Brumbies beat the Highlanders, they would then need results to go their way to host a semi.
Two of the teams that finished above them on the ladder — the Wellington Hurricanes, the Johannesburg Lions or the Cape Town Stormers — would need to lose for that to happen.
“The last two crowds after the June break have been down a little bit, but weather conditions have probably played into that a little. It’s been a lot colder,” Thomson said.
“But I think Canberra just needs to realise it’s an important game, it’s a quarter-final.
“If we win that game and results go our way we could have a home semi-final the following week, so we need to get as much support out there as possible for the team.
“We have to pay [the Highlanders] a set amount, obviously we’ve got our normal stadium costs that we have to pay for and we rely on getting people out to the ground to ensure it’s a financially viable option for us.
“That’s what we’re hoping for, to get as many people as we can … a good crowd will certainly help our financial situation this year.”
SANZAAR’s decision to schedule the game on Friday night, despite the Brumbies asking Super Rugby’s governing body for a Sunday afternoon game, has hurt the ACT club.
Because NRL club Canberra Raiders have a triple header at Canberra Stadium on Saturday, concerns about frost meant a 6pm kick-off was chosen for the Brumbies-Highlanders final, which could make it tough for some fans to get to the game after work.
Stadium officials feared the usual 7.40pm start time, combined with a potential frost, would make it impossible to get line markings and sponsors painted on the field before the Raiders’ under-20s start on Saturday at 10.40am.
Thomson said they would give a free meat pie to the first 2000 fans through the gate and were also offering free parking before 4.30pm. Some ticket prices have also been reduced.
He said they were trying to encourage fans to get their early to avoid getting caught in peak-hour traffic. ACTION is running free buses to the match.
“Even though it is Canberra and we don’t really have a massive peak hour like other major cities, those arterial roads leading into Canberra Stadium can get quite congested,” Thomson said.
“So really try and get out there early … there’ll be free parking out there up until 4.30pm.
“The stadium came up with [the free pies] … trying to make sure we’re working together to get a good crowd there. I’ll be in that first 2000, don’t worry about that.”
Season ticket holders have until Monday 11pm to buy their regular seats through Ticketek, then unsold seats go on sale to the general public on Wednesday at 9am.
SUPER RUGBY — QUARTER-FINAL
Friday: ACT Brumbies v Otago Highlanders at Canberra Stadium, 6pm. Tickets available from Ticketek. Members on sale until Monday 11pm, general public on sale from Wednesday 9am.