OUR VIEW: Big crowd needed to show confidence in Penrith Panthers fixture

THERE will be all sorts of measures of success discussed in the lead-up to and the aftermath of next year’s fourth Penrith Panthers NRL match in Bathurst, but the measure of success that will really matter will be the final crowd number.

It will tell the story: good or bad.

Bathurst Regional Council’s deal with the Panthers to bring an NRL game a year to the city for five years was, quite rightly, considered a real coup when a crowd of close to 9000 people turned up at Carrington Park in late July 2014 to watch the Cronulla Sharks win a tight game against the Panthers 18-16.

But that first match – whether for the novelty factor or because of the opposition – set a benchmark that the subsequent two games have not been able to reach.

A disappointing crowd of just over 6000 people saw the Panthers beat the Gold Coast Titans in March the next year and a slightly better crowd of around 6700 people watched the Panthers beat the Canberra Raiders in April this year.

Underlining the disappointment of those figures is the fact almost 7600 people turned up to watch a trial match in Orange in February this year between the Raiders and the Newcastle Knights.

So what’s the correct recipe for a big crowd in 2017? 

An opposition with a large following is always going to help, but it’s a big ask for the Panthers to bring one of their blockbusters to Bathurst when they can get a much larger crowd for it in Sydney.

It would be assumed the time of year would have a bearing on the crowd, but the match played latest in the season (against Cronulla) remains the game to have drawn the biggest crowd.

And the players’ willingness to conduct coaching clinics and visit schools each year has to have a bearing on the final game day figure, but Bathurst Regional Council is hardly in a position to make demands about this involvement.

These are athletes on contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it’s their club and coach that will decide, in the end, how their time is spent.

When the Panthers and the Raiders play in Bathurst in June next year, there will be plenty of eyes on the scoreboard as the game unfolds.

As well, expect there to be more than a few eyes on the final crowd figure when it is displayed. It will indicate a win or loss of a different sort.