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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

West Coast eye AFL crowd record in Round 14 game against Essendon at Optus Stadium

West Coast are poised to set an AFL attendance record as they cash in on a blistering start to the season and the increased capacity at Optus Stadium.
The Eagles have taken the competition by surprise and will reclaim top spot on the ladder from Richmond if they can put John Worsfold’s Essendon to the sword tomorrow night.
Despite the threat of rain and the match starting at 6.10pm on a week night, club officials expect another big crowd.
They have urged supporters to arrive as early as possible.
The Bombers traditionally have a strong fan base in WA and a bumper turnout would see West Coast become the first club in AFL/VFL history to register seven consecutive home attendances above 50,000 during the home-and-away season.
Only two other clubs have reached that mark in six successive home matches.
Essendon achieved the feat on their way to the minor premiership in 1999. Richmond did it way back in the old VFL competition, during their 1980 flag-winning campaign.
Only the Tigers have attracted bigger home crowds than West Coast this year.
The premiers’ attendances spiked in standalone feature matches, including the season opener against Carlton and the Anzac Day eve clash with Melbourne.
The home support for West Coast has been so fanatical that critics have accused umpires of being influenced by the Optus Stadium crowd in response to the Eagles often receiving favourable free-kick counts.
St Kilda coach Alan Richardson branded it the “noise of affirmation”.
The fans’ support has not been lost on West Coast players as they chase the club’s fourth AFL premiership.
“They’re massive, the crowd,” Eagles midfielder Jack Redden said.
“Especially late in games and finishing quarters, they can be really good for us.
“We’ve just got to ride the wave.”
West Coast set a record crowd for WA football in round one against Sydney when 53,553 fans turned out for their first match at Optus Stadium.
It beat the old mark set during the 1979 WAFL grand final, when 52,781 were at Subiaco Oval to see East Fremantle beat South Fremantle in a derby epic.
The Eagles have twice bettered their own mark since round one.
The record stands at 57,616 for their big win over Richmond in a top-of-the-ladder showdown in round nine.
West Coast’s average crowd of 53,697 this year is up from 36,750 last season, the final year of football at Subiaco Oval.
Fremantle, too, have had a huge boost at Optus Stadium, with average home crowds of 43,557 this year far outweighing 32,374 last season.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the move by the WA clubs to Optus Stadium had been a major boost for the competition.
“Optus Stadium is one of the best stadiums I’ve been to anywhere in the world,” McLachlan said.
“The stadium is great for West Australians and also for the AFL as a destination venue to attend games. It is a great place to watch football.”

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