Bulldogs CEO Todd Greenberg has urged the club’s fans and players to ‘use the force’ against the Raiders on Sunday as they farewell club captain Andrew Ryan and possibly hunt down an unlikely semi-finals berth.
But before the NRL judiciary goes into meltdown at the prospect of more on-field unrest, it’s the force of crowd numbers and the magic of the club’s massive ‘Star Wars’ promotional afternoon that Greenberg is endorsing.
The Bulldogs will throw open the gates to all NRL club members for free at ANZ Stadium on Sunday as the club celebrates the 218th and last game of their veteran captain. They need 21,874 fans to push through the turnstiles to guarantee a 20,000 home crowd average for an impressive third year in a row.
Greenberg hopes the fans can channel the energy of Round 25, 2009, when a crowd of 41,835 packed out ANZ Stadium for the last game of blue-and-whites legend Hazem El Masri. He said the 32-year-old Ryan deserved a similar resounding send-off after nine seasons with the club.
“They don’t make them like Andrew Ryan very often,” Greenberg told NRL.com today.
“He has been an amazing servant of the Bulldogs over a long period of time and also of the game.
“Sunday will be very much be about him, and the club and the fans making sure they make their thanks for the effort he has put in,” he continued. “I’d certainly like to see anyone who has got some association with the Bulldogs to find some time on Sunday to come out and farewell him. He deserves it.”
Winger Steve Turner agreed, saying the players were focused on delivering their inspirational skipper a fitting end to his career.
“He has been a wonderful clubman for a long time and he has been through some highs and lows… we would love to send him out a winner.”
Greenberg said Ryan’s sacrifices for his professionalism, including long times spent assisting good young players to become NRL stars, were his greatest legacies.
“Most people will only see what he provides on the field but the amount of stuff he does off the field, the amount of leadership and mentoring to young players, the way he shows them the way to become a professional… he’ll be missed inside our organisation – he is a truly unique person.”
As part of Sunday’s farewell 6000 members and fans on Level 1 of the eastern grandstand will be given cards to hold up that will spell ‘Bobcat’ as Ryan leads the side onto the field for the final time.
Greenberg said the Bulldogs’ continued good crowd numbers, despite a middle-of-the-road year, revealed the club was connecting with its fans.
“We are making sure a day at the football is good-value entertainment,” he said. “We are readying ourselves for some success so in the next couple of years if we can get our on-field performance right, I think we are a club that can generate some significant numbers and change the landscape of rugby league in Sydney.”
Following on from the success of their special Avatar jersey promotion last season the Bulldogs will take the field on Sunday in a special limited edition Star Wars jersey to mark the world-wide release of Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-Ray.
The whole afternoon carries the Star Wars theme, with best-dressed fan and banner competitions, plus the Bulldogs’ cheergirls will be dressed as Princess Leia.
“It is something different, I think the fans enjoy it and I know the players really enjoy it,” Greenberg said.
The result of the Knights and Rabbitohs clash on Friday night holds the key to the Bulldogs’ chances of playing beyond this weekend. A Knights victory would leave the Bulldogs with an insurmountable points differential to overturn. Their best-case scenario is for the Rabbitohs to win by a solitary point – meaning the Bulldogs would need to roll the Raiders by 41 points to finish in eighth place.
Turner said coach Jim Dymock had impressed upon the squad the need to focus on an 80-minute performance.
“Who knows what happens after that 80 minutes? We might rack up a few points or we might just get the win,” Turner said.
“We certainly played much better footy last Saturday night in the second half with 26 points scored. We are capable of scoring points but we have certainly got to worry about processes and plays for the 80 minutes.”