Record crowds to push profits Â Â March 10, 2008 http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,23346434-23214,00.html THE first round of the premiership's centenary season is expected to attract a mammoth 216,000 spectators - smashing the previous record by 30,000. While an economic downturn is expected to affect attendances in the years ahead, club estimates suggest this weekend will be one of the most profitable in the code's history. Last year, 185,051 people watched the eight games in round one, which included two at the giant Suncorp Stadium. This season, two matches at Homebush's ANZ Stadium are each expected to nudge the record for a regular season match in Sydney. "We certainly anticipate big crowds," NRL chief executive David Gallop said. "The build-up to kick-off has everyone talking. I can't remember being stopped in the street by so many people telling me they can't wait until next weekend. "Two blokes just shouted at me from a moving car. "The centenary is a chance to celebrate the game's history but it is the closeness of the competition that has our sport in such great shape in its hundredth year." In 1908, the entire first round of premiership football attracted just 8000 fans. Despite the well-documented rivalry between South Sydney and Sydney Roosters, who play on Friday at ANZ, the second match there at the weekend is surprisingly selling more tickets. Officials are reluctant to comment on sales but sources say the 5.30pm Parramatta-Bulldogs clash is headed towards a 38,000 crowd. The season-opener between the Roosters and Rabbitohs is looking more like 35,000. Skilled Stadium is sold out for its official opening an hour later, with 27,000 certain to see Gold Coast host North Queensland. Based on previous round-one attendances, Newcastle and Manly are expecting 20,000 and 18,000 respectively for their appointments with Canberra and Cronulla. Penrith attracted just 24,582 to Suncorp Stadium last year but it's understood that many tickets have already been sold for this weekend's rematch with the Broncos. And the switch of the clash between the competition's two joint ventures, Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra, from the SCG to the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday is not expected to hurt crowd numbers. Wests Tigers officials see the resultant publicity from the scheduling clash with cricket as a positive and are expecting a 25,000-strong turnout. Monday Night Football sales for Melbourne-Warriors have been a tad slow. The Telstra Dome game is shifting the same number of tickets as the average Olympic Park home match but Docklands staff remain hopeful of hitting their 18,000 target.