A RECORD NRL finals crowd of more than 75,000 is set to pack ANZ Stadium for Saturday night's preliminary final after South Sydney and Canterbury members yesterday snapped up 20,000 tickets.
The Herald was told that 8000 tickets were sold in the first 30 minutes - about the same number that had been sold by 4pm for the other NRL final at Melbourne's AAMI Park between the Storm and Sea Eagles on Friday night.
The NRL said Manly members had bought 6 per cent or 480 tickets, with the rest sold to Storm members in Victoria. In comparison, Rabbitohs members had bought 9350 of the 17,000 tickets sold by 4pm for the club's first preliminary final since 1971.
The breakdown of tickets sold was 55 per cent to Souths members and 45 per cent to Bulldogs members.
With members of the clubs involved having until 8pm yesterday to purchase tickets, officials estimated that more than 20,000 would be sold before they go on sale today to the general public. Based on those figures, the NRL is on track to surpass the 74,459 crowd that attended the 2009 preliminary final between Canterbury and Parramatta at ANZ Stadium.
The Rabbitohs and Bulldogs have been the two best supported Sydney teams this season, with Canterbury's average home attendance of 21,963 second only to Brisbane.
Souths' average home crowds of 18,904 were the fourth best in the NRL, with Newcastle third. With a similar crowd expected for Friday night's AFL preliminary final between the Sydney Swans and Collingwood, it will be the biggest sporting weekend at ANZ Stadium since the 2000 Olympic Games.
"We are on track to move 20,000-plus tickets today in the pre-sale," Swans chief executive Andrew Ireland said. "This great early response, plus the huge interest shown from approximately 10,000 ANZ Stadium members, has set the scene for a blockbuster crowd for Friday night's game.''
The record crowd for an AFL finals match outside Victoria is 71,019, which was set when the Swans played Brisbane at ANZ Stadium in 2003. Sydney and Collingwood played before the biggest-ever AFL crowd outside Victoria when 72,393 watched their 2003 clash at ANZ Stadium.
ANZ Stadium managing director Daryl Kerry said: "This is potentially one of the biggest footy finals weekend in Sydney sporting history, and it is certainly the biggest since the Olympic venue was built.
''The AFL and NRL could reasonably expect crowds above 60,000 - possibly even higher - on both nights.''
The NRL grand final at ANZ Stadium on September 30 is already sold out, with 14,000 tickets reserved for members of this weekend's winning teams.
Direct trains from Central to Sydney Olympic Park, and major event buses are in place for the AFL and NRL finals matches at ANZ Stadium this weekend.