The Canberra Raiders have struggled with crowds in 2013, averaging just 10,133, the lowest figure in 12 years. Photo: Melissa Adams
They're happy to be the Saturday afternoon ''guinea pigs'', but the Canberra Raiders are hopeful the experiment will see the light of day next season as the NRL looks for avenues to improve its flagging home crowds.
Canberra hosts the Bulldogs this weekend in the first of four Saturday afternoon fixtures scheduled into the NRL draw to complete the regular season.
It's understood the timeslot is being trialled as a potential replacement for the Sunday night format this year, which has yielded poor crowds and TV ratings.
Crowds have been down across the NRL this year. Despite winning eight of their nine games at home this season, the Raiders' average crowd of 10,133 this season is the lowest figure in 12 years.
The Saturday afternoon timeslot was hugely popular in the 1990s, but was ultimately scrapped to satisfy TV demands.
The Raiders are desperate for a big crowd to help ensure the fixture remains on the schedule.
Early ticket sales indicate the Raiders' game against the Bulldogs on Saturday could challenge its biggest home crowd this year of 12,113 in round three against St George Illawarra.
Raiders commercial and marketing manager Jason Mathie said the club is keen to secure more afternoon home games. ''Day games are always appreciated here and this week will help gauge whether it [Saturday afternoon] is attractive to the Canberra public,'' he said.
''Saturday afternoon is definitely attractive to us, just like the Sunday afternoon games.''
The concept's feasibility will largely be decided by Fox Sports ratings over the next month.
But Mathie also hoped the game's powerbrokers will take the fans' wishes into consideration if it results in more people at live games.
''The broadcasters ultimately are guided by their viewer numbers, but they see a fair bit of merit in people attending the matches,'' Mathie said.
''More people at the games is beneficial for everyone, including the broadcasters in terms of atmosphere.
''We're excited about the new scheduling, it creates a new opportunity.''
Mathie said the fact all three grades - NRL, NSW Cup and Holden Cup - will feature at Canberra Stadium adds to the nostalgic feel.
The Raiders host another big drawcard in Manly next week, handing the club a big chance to boost its coffers.
''It's a bit like heritage round, going to the footy for three grades in the traditional Saturday afternoon timeslot,'' he said.
''The next two weeks are really important for us both on and off the field, that's the significance of it.''