Finals play-off may be at SFS

St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust yesterday left the door open for the Dragons to move next month’s home qualifying final to the Sydney Football Stadium.The competition leaders are guaranteed a top-four position on the NRL ladder with two rounds remaining, but Doust said a decision was yet to be made on a venue for their first play-off game.The clash is likely – but not guaranteed – to be played at Kogarah’s WIN Jubilee Oval, which holds 20,541. It can’t be played in Wollongong, as WIN Stadium is out of action due to a $29 million western and southern grandstand redevelopment. Where should the Dragon’s home qualifying final be held?But Doust refused to rule out the possibility of moving the semi to the SFS, which holds 45,500 fans – a move sure to upset devoted fans.”It’s a bit premature to say we’ve made a decision on a home semi,” Doust said.”Albeit with the WIN Stadium western grandstand currently not open, it’s fair to consider the game might be played at Kogarah.”Last year Doust was under immense pressure to shift the Dragons’ ill-fated home final from Kogarah to the SFS.A crowd of 18,174 packed into WIN Jubilee Oval to watch Parramatta’s comprehensive 25-12 win over the Dragons.This came despite the NRL having offered a $250,000 incentive for the Dragons to switch the game to the SFS in the hope of a 40,000-plus attendance.At the time, Parramatta chief executive Paul Osborne labelled Doust a “chicken” for not switching venues, but the Dragons boss stuck to his guns.NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley yesterday told the Mercury he would not try to force St George Illawarra to move the game.”At the annual conference last year clubs decided they should retain the rights to play a final at their home venue,” Annesley said.”It’s the Dragons’ call, we wouldn’t stand in their way.”Annesley said he expected pressure to be put on Doust to host the game at the SFS if the Dragons take on a Sydney-based team in the first week of the finals.”There could be a lot of public and media calling for the game to be moved,” he said.”But the feeling among the clubs was they would be letting their players down by moving it, having worked all year to have the right to host a final.”The Dragons let a chance to secure the minor premiership slip with Sunday’s 32-16 loss to Canberra, but they only need to win one of their remaining two games to finish in first place.The race for the remaining positions in the top eight is less clear, with 12 teams still mathematically in the running to fill the finals placings.
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