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The NRL has tonight celebrated the start of the 2011 Telstra Premiership with the biggest round attendance in its history.

Tonight’s crowd of 26,737 at the Bulldogs-Wests Tigers match at ANZ Stadium took the opening round attendance to 201,212 – smashing the previous record of 185,051 set in 2007. 

The mark is the biggest round attendance and opening round attendance in the history of the game and follows a record-breaking NRL Club Membership drive to start the season. 

Already more than 160,000 fans have formed a connection with their club by becoming members, smashing the total club membership figure for 2010 of 144,000.

“It’s a credit to the way the coaches and players have prepared that they have come out of the blocks and played some of the exciting football we have enjoyed in the opening matches,” NRL Chief Executive David Gallop said tonight. 

“Already there are contenders standing up and making a statement and others realising they need to kick into gear to match their rivals, but it’s been great to hear people talking about the footy with such pride.”