Up to 6,000 spectators will attend the clash between the Canberra Raiders and Melbourne Storm this weekend, as crowd restrictions continue to ease in time for the Raiders’ second home game at GIO Stadium since the NRL competition’s restart.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced the easing of restrictions on Monday 6 July, following the weekend’s pilot program when crowds of up to 1,500 attended the Raiders and Brumbies clashes.
As a result, the stadium will host 25% of its seated capacity for the NRL game this weekend, which equates to about 6,000 tickets.
“Of all the issues that are confronting Australia and Canberra at the moment, how many people can go to the footy isn’t the number one issue,” he said.
“Nevertheless, we are in the position to be able to expand attendance for Brumbies and Raiders games.”
Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton said it was good to be back at GIO Stadium for two weeks running, as the team looked to follow its close six-point win against the St George Dragons on Friday night.
“It was definitely a little buzz getting back to the home stadium and hearing some of those fans,” he said.
“We nearly let it go in the end there, but I think we started faster; we didn’t let them in with a lead.
“Our shape is slowly getting better I feel, but we have a lot of work to do.”
The team’s forward line was unlucky with injury during Friday’s match-up, with veteran forward Iosia Soliola sustaining a facial fracture after a collision with the Dragons’ Blake Lawrie.
The forward is set to undergo facial surgery for the injury, but it is unclear how long he will be on the sideline.
Wighton said the loss of the experienced player would be a big hit to the team.
“He’s a massive part of the team, he’s always the first one leading our training and on the field,” he said.
“A few of the younger boys are going to have to put their hands up, do him proud and try to lead the way while he is out injured.”
Emre Guler also sustained an ankle injury during the clash and was set to undergo scans on Monday.
Raiders prop Ryan Sutton played an impressive game on Friday, with coach Ricky Stuart describing it as one of his best for the club.
The promising youngster admitted his teammates had “taken the mickey” out of him for the comments, and that he was always looking for a way to improve his game.
“I was looking at the vision and there are things that I can improve on,” he said.
“I am never happy really, even though he (Stuart) said that I am always looking for things I can improve on.”
Tickets for the clash are set to go on sale in coming days and will be offered first to members who missed out on the Dragons clash, then to remaining members, before being made available to the general public.