WE have hosted arguably one of the biggest football matches in Ballarat history and yet are left scratching out heads.
Western Bulldogs' must-win final-round AFL clash against Adelaide Crows was the first sell out for Mars Stadium. Every ticket, including general admission to stand in the outer, was snatched up. No-one could purchase a ticket on the day.
Official crowd figures show only 9560 people rocked up and 1440 were no-shows - that is a lot of people who could not be bothered.
The AFL says this is unlucky. People pull out all the time for personal reasons.
Anaecdotally, multiple fans have told The Courier their tickets were not scanned on the gates properly in a late crush to make opening bounce.
Some fans say the Crows' fate was all-but-sealed anyway from other results at the weekend and they questioned what would be the point in watching the Bulldogs likely rip apart what was left of their season.
Our AFL party looked amazing. Inside Mars the crowd was rocking like the full house it was billed to be.
Regardless, we need that seemingly elusive number for proof we are pulling people into our ground - not just booking spots for good intentions - if we are to ultimately remain a Doggies' kennel.
Consistent strong crowd numbers reinforce how serious we are about hosting AFL.
This was the biggest match, in terms of what was at stake, Ballarat has hosted. Our historic first AFL match for premiership points two years ago boasted 10,067 in the crowd with only the 600 grandstand seats declared sold-out before the game. Walk-up fans were welcome to buy a ticket and join the fun, a luxury unavailable at Mars on Sunday and a disappointment for those who might otherwise have stake a spot on the viewing mound.
The only thing we can do is ensure we keep turning up. There are a guaranteed two seasons left to play in this deal with the Dogs and AFL. If we want to grow the game and if we want to have any chance to expand our stadium - which it is designed to do - we need to keep proving there is the hunger here.
We packed more than 12,000 people into Eastern Oval to watch England take on Sri Lanka in a 1992 Cricket World Cup match.
We can turn out in force for AFL in Ballarat.
Western Bulldogs are gradually turning our ground into a home fortress. The 34-point win against the Crows was the Bulldogs' third win from five starts on Mars. This includes two wins against quality rivals in Brisbane and Adelaide this season.
Bulldogs players are getting to understand the nuances Mars can serve up. Skipper Easton Wood made multiple post-match references to how his team capitalised on the breeze our stadium whips up.
Should they return against other low-drawing clubs yet to visit our patch of Bulldogs' territory, there is the potential for the club to make Ballarat into a true home ground advantage.
We need to be there to help make it happen.
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