All Blacks, setting sun blamed for embarrassing scenes in Pacific Championship final

Just 13,000 fans showed up for the final between Australia and New Zealand in Hamilton.

The virtually empty grandstand, pictured here for the Kangaroos and New Zealand clash in the Pacific Championship final.
One side of the grandstand was practically empty for the Kangaroos and New Zealand clash in the Pacific Championship final. Image: Channel 9/Getty

The setting sun, the high cost of tickets and an over saturation of sport in New Zealand have all been put forward as reasons behind the poor turn-out for Saturday's Pacific Championships final in Hamilton. A crowd of just 13,269 was on hand to witness the Kiwis' stunning 30-0 win over Australia, with cameras panning to a near-empty stand on the eastern side of Waikato's FMG Stadium.

Television viewers were quick to seize on the embarrassing scenes, with many demanding future tournaments avoid the North Island location. Veteran broadcaster Peters Peters was among those to voice his disapproval.

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He told Sky Sports Radio: "Disappointed in the crowd. We've really got to look at whether this is going to be a realistic competition going forward. Waikato is a rugby union stronghold (and) surely the game should have been played where rugby league is loved and that is Auckland. They would have got at least double that crowd size there."

A host of potential reasons for the below-par attendance in Hamilton were given, including fans not wanting to sit in the stand opposite the setting sun. "Broadcast shots of the Hamilton crowd are a bit deceptive. This is the opposite side of the field. Crowd doesn’t want to be staring into the sun," Channel 9 reporter Zac Bailey posted on X.

"(But) agree, the crowd was very disappointing for an international final. Dare say Hamilton won’t be hosting another league Test for a while."

Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific Championship final in Hamilton.
Just 13,000 fans showed up to watch Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific Championship final. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Reasons emerge for poor crowd at Kangaroos-NZ final

Others fan claimed tickets into the eastern stand cost $80, whereas it was $40 elsewhere in the ground, while the 5pm kick-off time was raised as another possible excuse. Many New Zealanders felt the game was poorly advertised and struggled for publicity at a time where the attention of many Kiwis was on the rugby and cricket World Cups.

The New Zealand Rugby League was in charge of hosting and promoting the match, with CEO Greg Peters declaring pre-game: "It’s great we can bring rugby league at the highest level to our communities and whaanau in Hamilton and beyond as FMG Stadium Waikato hosts the game’s pinnacle event. Whether you’re a proud Kiwi, Aussie or just a lover of the game – this atmosphere will be unmissable."

The home side undoubtedly gave value for money for those who did turn up, inflicting a record defeat on the Kangaroos. The visitors were never in the hunt, missing 50 tackles and looking completely out of synch in attack.

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