Michael Burgess in Brisbane
The Warriors won’t lack for support on Saturday night, with up to 10,000 fans inside Suncorp stadium.
While the Auckland team will still face a cauldron – with the vast majority of the massive arena backing the Broncos – there will be sizeable contingent of Warriors faithful.
According to sources within the NRL, the Herald understands that between 80 and 85 per cent of tickets sold have been scooped up by Brisbane-aligned fans. But that still leaves a healthy block of away support, in the 52,000 seat stadium.
Large numbers of Kiwis have made the trip across the Tasman, with all kinds of sacrifices to make the trip, while thousands more New Zealanders resident in Queensland are expected to attend the match.
Brisbane is awash with sports fever, with the AFL preliminary final also staged on Saturday night at the Gabba, a few hours before the Broncos-Warriors clash.
Every hotel is fully booked, while the bars and restaurants will be heaving across the weekend.
For their part, the travelling Warriors’ supporters have some impressive tales.
John, from Wellington, booked his flight last Sunday morning - barely 12 hours after the win over the Newcastle Knights – then bought two tickets through separate contacts in Australia, to be certain he could see the game.
“I was nervous,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss out after coming all this way.”
He was staying a couple of extra days either side of the game – “got to make the most of it” – though he admitted that his capital-based employers weren’t “completely sure” of the nature of his trip.
Another fan couldn’t fly until Saturday but has apparently forked out $1700 for a business-class seat on that flight, with no other options available.
Tony Jefferis, a farming contractor from the King Country, landed on Wednesday, while a mate back home is still deciding if he will join him. Another friend booked his flights 20 minutes into the Newcastle match last week, confirming airline options on his phone after the Warriors sped to a 16-0 lead.
Jefferis has been a serious fan for more than a decade, but his interest was really piqued over the last few years.
He felt some of the rule changes since then, especially the six again option, have sped up the game, making it an improved product. And the NRL was much better at promoting the characters of the sport and their personalities. “The Warriors seem much more approachable, the All Blacks are a bit more aloof,” he said.
Last Saturday was unreal – “I don’t even know how to put it into words” – and he was still on a high, which might explain why he bought a one-way ticket.
“Hopefully, I’m heading to Sydney next week,” laughed Jefferis, dreaming about a grand final appearance. “If the unthinkable happens and the Broncos win, I’ll make some other plans.”
He’ll link up with relatives in Brisbane – all “mad Broncos fans” – and is looking forward to plenty of banter ahead of the match.
The Warriors completed their captain’s run on Friday morning, before returning to their central city base to continue preparations for the game.2023-09-22T06:47:21Z dg43tfdfdgfd