Double-header eases strain on Titans
Retaining their place in the 2018 double-header at Suncorp Stadium will help ease the pain of moving two games away from Cbus Super Stadium early next year according to Gold Coast Titans CEO Graham Annesley.
The NRL announced on Monday that there would be four premiership double-headers played in the early rounds of the 2018 Telstra Premiership season, including the Round 1 opening to Perth Stadium, the first double-header to be played at ANZ Stadium in close to a decade and a historic double-header at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium in Round 5.
For the third year in a row Suncorp Stadium will host a double-header with Manly to play host to Brisbane and Melbourne bringing their Round 10 home game against the Titans to the Queensland capital.
With the Commonwealth Games to dominate the Gold Coast sporting landscape from April 4-15 next year, the Titans have agreed to take two of their home games to regional centres in 2018. Annesley is therefore delighted that Titans members and supporters have an additional fixture that will be easily accessible.
"It's great for us because even though it's an away game for us it's another game that our fans can actually get to," Annesley told NRL.com.
"If we were playing in Melbourne then it's really a game that our fans can't go and watch us play.
"By virtue of the fact that it's an hour up the road to Brisbane in a stadium of that capacity it pretty much means that any Titans fan that wants to go can get to the game.
"In a year where we have to take a couple of games away because of the Commonwealth Games, it helps to offset that."
The subject of blockbuster double-header events within the NRL is one that remains close to Annesley's heart given his role in the historic opening to ANZ Stadium – then Stadium Australia – in March 1999.
Then serving as the NRL's Chief Operating Officer, Annesley was integral in the staging of a double-header that pitted Manly against Newcastle and Parramatta against St George Illawarra that drew 104,583 supporters to the Sydney Olympics' showpiece venue.
Before it was overtaken by the Grand Final between the Dragons and Storm later that year it held the record as the largest rugby league crowd ever in the world but Annesley recalls wondering whether it could actually go ahead just one day out.
"I can remember being out there on the Friday, the day before, literally thinking, How is this place going to be ready for tomorrow?" Annesley said.
"There was rubbish, construction material in the bowels of the stadium and I remember thinking that there was so much work that had to be done in the next 24 hours to get the place fit for a game.
"It all came off and it was a magnificent success. An amazing crowd, a capacity crowd and I've got at home a plaque that all the staff got to commemorate being part of that game. It was one of the highlights that's for sure.
"People in Sydney had never been in a stadium of that capacity and the atmosphere was just something that no one had ever experienced before."
Prior to the Round 3 double-header that will see South Sydney face Manly and Parramatta take on Cronulla, ANZ Stadium will also host an international pre-season double act with the Rabbitohs playing Wigan and the Dragons hosting Hull FC.
But for Annesley, the opportunity to christen a new stadium in Perth as the NRL did in Sydney almost 20 years ago will be a wonderful way to kick off season 2018.
"To have one in Perth to open the season is going to be a very special event at that fantastic venue that they've got over there," Annesley said.
"I think they are potentially great events and the more events we can create during the season the better it is for the game and certainly the better it is hopefully for crowd support."