Stadium Adventures

2022 NRL Grand Final Fan Experience, Penrith Vs.Parramatta, Accor Stadium, Sydney, 2/10/22

On Sunday morning at 2am I left Brisbane to head down to Sydney for the NRL Grand Final between Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels at Accor Stadium in Homebush, Sydney.

Leaving home at 3am I hit Brisbane Airport, parked the car and excitedly boarded my 5am flight to Sydney to head to an NRL Grand Final, my first GF since 2018 at the Olympic Stadium.

In the lead up to the big event I produced a match day fact sheet for my fellow NRL fans which went down a hit in our NRL community. I miss match day programs so tried to make it reminiscent of Big League Magazine (RIP) to have a physical keepsake from the big day.

I hit Sydney by 8am taking into account day-light savings time and made my way to my hotel, stopping to check the front covers of the local papers all promoting the major event.

By 12pm I was making my way out to the venue and here is a run down on the day from my fan experience and fan journey perspective.

Transport:

My fan journey from Central Station to Olympic Park and the game at Accor Stadium could not have been quicker or more seamless. Free travel on public transport was included with every ticket and the journey out to the venue from Central via train took under 25 minutes. From there it was such a simple walk to the venue fan precinct and entry gates. It’s always very accessible and it was good also to see the colourful NRL team bunting and presentation at Central Station and Olympic Park Station which added to the atmosphere. Staff were helpful and eager to engage with both sets of fans to ensure they all had a good day.

Unfortunately I was unable to take the gorgeous old cab or Routemaster bus out to the game but don’t they just look outstanding!

Ticketing:

It pays to be an NRL member. I purchased my ticket as soon as NRL members tickets went on sale. I was able to get a discount, buy first and choose where I wanted to sit. I was surprised members got a further discount which was nice to see. I purchased the cheapest tickets I could at $49 which I thought was a bargain. Many fans on social jokingly said my seat was rubbish however I beg to differ. We were front and centre with a birds eye view. Not every fan can afford to go or be close to the action and this price point was all that I could afford anyway. Entry through the gates was seamless and efficient however I did go through very early in the day so had no troubles scanning in. Bag searches were conducted and a hello and smile along with eye contact was received on entry as well which was pleasant to see.

Fan Zone/Fan Engagement:

The fan precinct was absolutely pumping when I arrived after midday with fans of both teams as well as neutral rugby league fans like myself all having a wonderful, fun, safe time together at the bars and within the outside fan zone area.

The bars were going off with live music, DJ’s and beers flowing with the sun out and the atmosphere sparkling with positivity from the fans. It was such a fun vibe and moment to be in.

The merchandise tents were doing a roaring trade with special event tees and hats as well as Penrith and Parramatta gear selling like hot cakes at the multiple merchandise sites around the venue.

The fan engagement and event presentation was top notch and included loads of fun activations for kids, families and fans of all ages such as:

  • competitions
  • pass the ball
  • face painting
  • giveaways
  • trivia
  • photo opportunities (NRL Steeden ball/NRLW)
  • size me up
  • colouring in
  • trophy photos
  • virtual kick and photo activations

Everyone was having such a brilliant time in the fan zone with the lines moving really well throughout the two hours I spent going from activity to activation….obviously, didn’t do the face painting or colouring in but I can see how much fun my daughter will have when I bring her down for a grand final in a few years time.

The event presentation looked impressive with colourful lighting, banners and bunting throughout the venue and surrounds. There was also plenty of food truck gourmet options outside the ground as well as astro turfed areas, roving entertainers (the 70’s disco crew on stilts- they were outstanding!), craft beer bars and plenty of spaces to sit and take in the festivities.

Venue:

After I had my fun in the fan zone I headed into the venue and up the ramp to my seats in section 606. I forgot how steep this venue gets and you really have to pace yourself, especially if carrying a tray of beers so I was glad I had my weetbix in the morning as when I made it to my seat I was able to take in my impressive view of the ground. For $50 I was very impressed with my seat purchase and settled in for a while with a cold bevvie to take in the NRL State Championship (Penrith defeated Norths Devils 44-10), NRLW Grand Final (Newcastle won 32-12 over Parramatta) and then the pre-game entertainment before the main match.

It was outstanding to be a part of a new Australian crowd record for the NRL Women’s competition as close to 43,000 fans set this record to watch the Grand Final. Well done to everyone for being inside the venue to watch this moment.

When I went down to get a beer and pie at 6pm the lines were unfortunately really bad with up to 100m of people waiting in lines in both directions and no real line management or idea for fans of where lines started or ended or went for food or drinks so I unfortunately gave up and didn’t get to eat anything at the venue and only bought the one beer in the end. This was probably the most disappointing thing about the fan experience as I love nothing more than getting a pie and a beer but it was just too busy and after 20 minutes in a line that wasn’t moving I decided to give up. The venue staff however should be commended because I saw how hard they were working for fans and they were smiling and being positive. It’s always hard for a venue when at capacity to service every fan efficiently and we have to remember that venues are still getting back into their groove post COVID too so while it was disappointing to not be able to get F&B I can also understand the challenges.

Beers were $10.50-10.90 and included Stone and Wood craft beer. I wasn’t able to see more of the food on show but I heard there was a special event day burger which sounded good!

Pre-Game Entertainment:

Being a huge Cold Chisel fan I was really excited for Jimmy Barnes to be performing as part of the pre-game show and he was absolutely brilliant bringing all the hits and having fans rocking out to the classics. The other performers were equally impressive and the Welcome to Country and National Anthem were also big highlights with the Indigenous man doing the WTC doing such a fine job talking about respect.

The crowd singalong’s of fan favourites like ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Horses’ were quite funny to see while the multiple on field sponsor fan engagement activations at half time were run smoothly and provided some laughs. I feel for the ladies kicking the goals in that competition, it’s bloody hard in the footwear that fans bring to a game not realising how oily the turf is!

The pitch invader that ran on and tried to scale the posts was brilliantly nabbed by security and venue staff and ushered off the field. Thankfully this idiot will now be fined and banned and did not cause any player injuries. Well done to the venue staff here for quickly sorting this out. These people don’t belong in our NRL community.

Exit:

Once the game was over with Penrith winning 28-12 over Parramatta we made our way back down the ramp and out to the train station to head back into the city. Transport home could not have been more easy and seamless with the lines moving fast and free transport making it simple to get home and end the night safely. I will add that when I asked a cabbie how much it was to get to the city he remarked $150 and told me the meter was off. Very dodgy behaviour and not what fans expect or deserve to see for the fan experience. No sooner had I told him that was ridiculous and unfair for fans, he was swarmed by transport cops or transit enforcement officers (unsure who they were) who heard me talking to him and ordered him to pull over however he did not want to and continued trying to drive away which was quite dangerous as it was packed with fans around him. I commend these officers because they saw that this was wrong and not what fans expect from transport companies.

A big shout out to the National Rugby LeagueAccor Stadium and everyone involved for putting on an outstanding #NRLGF day in Sydney today.

I had such a fun day participating in all the activations, catching up with the NRL community and just being back at the venue for the first time in a few years.

Fantastic event presentation, fan journey, #FanEngagement, fan atmosphere and entertainment. Seamless free travel on public transport, craft beers, food trucks, happy, positive and helpful staff and a brilliant loud atmosphere all made for an epic day.

Well done Penrith Panthers and Newcastle Knights and Parramatta Eels National Rugby League Club fans too.

NRLGF Match Day Fact Sheet 2022

I deeply miss physical match day programs at the NRL so I produced this one-off free NRL grand final fact sheet for myself and fellow fans for the big day. Sadly print media is dying a slow death and soon there won’t be any match day programs from the English football to the cherished AFL Record….hopefully that time is still some time away.

It went down such a hit with fans in our NRL community and I ended up running out of the 50 copies I printed, all of which was just for a bit of a laugh, to have a physical keepsake memory to take away from the game.

Brisbane Lions AFLW Fan Experience, The Gabba, Brisbane, 10/09/22

Outstanding day at The Gabba supporting the AFL – Australian Football League Brisbane Lions #AFLW team in the AFLW Indigenous Round and Q Clash against Gold Coast SUNS.

The family friendly atmosphere is a major drawcard and winner for a positive fan experience.

Impressed with the fan zone and Indigenous painting and the use of indigenous words to celebrate goals plus welcome guests to the Gabba at the front entrance gates.

Ramona’s 7th stadium game day and third women’s sport event with much more to come in her lifetime thanks to these pioneers paving the way for her generation and beyond.

I also loved the new range of throwback Brisbane Bears and Fitzroy merchandise.

Our game day snackle box is a big hit too with tasty game day treats to keep her entertained.

Lions thrashed Suns 12.10.82- 1.3. 9

FAN ENGAGEMENT FRIDAY: NEWS FROM AROUND THE GROUNDS 09/09/2022

A weekly recap of some of the interesting stories and developments from the educational to the random in the world of fan engagement/experience, stadium/venue news, fan behaviour and psychology, customer service plus much more. Enjoy.

FANS HQ FREE MAGAZINE

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Sydney Roosters NRL Fan Experience, Allianz Stadium (GRAND OPENING GAME DAY), Sydney, Australia, 2/9/22

Last night I took in the brand new and incredibly impressive Allianz Stadium in Sydney for the Roosters versus Souths NRL and NRLW matches. I will have a comprehensive review of the fan experience coming shortly for Australasian Leisure Management Magazine but for now here are some of my highlights on the venue and fan experience.

– Incredible atmosphere from the Roosters and Souths fans

– Accessible seating and more of it for fans who need it

– Wide concourses and no security or ushers telling you to move on

– Local Sydney craft beers (Happy Hour pricing 49% off was nice)

– Seating is outstanding. Nice comfy seats and good views everywhere

– LEDs, IPTV’s, light up posts, lighting, big screens all impressive and vibrant for fans

– Sustainability initiatives

– Roosters fan engagement

– Pre-game show was pumping from The Presets

– The Merivale food offering was outstanding. You can see the quality and diversity.

– Customer service was phenomenal

– Welcome on entry from staff

– Seamless ticketing entry through gates

– Transport was brilliant with the new light rail just superb. Electric car charging, buses, cycle racks

– Increase in toilets, especially female toilets.

– Self service kiosks for food and beverages

– The public art work from the 6 artists on show was very eye catching

– The outside court sports surface that anyone can use is very cool and a good use of stadium space on non game days

– Free commemorative flags and try cards on entry for the big game

– Very clear way-finding signage inside and outside the venue

Brisbane Broncos NRLW Fan Experience, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 27/8/22

What a weekend of sport in Brisbane this weekend with the Brisbane Broncos and Brisbane Lions both playing standalone matches at Suncorp Stadium and The Gabba respectively.

Took Ramona along for the National Rugby League #NRLW match against Sydney Roosters today in what was a really enjoyable fan experience and will follow it up with the Lions match against Fremantle Dockers tomorrow in Woolloongabba.

Quick shout out to the helpful stadium staff (for their dancing for Ramona from the snackbars as we walked through the concourse), the Broncos marketing, fan engagement and design team (for the cool free posters and trading cards) and the female athletes who are paving the way for the next generation – her generation.

#NRLWBroncosRoosters #NRL #BrisbaneBroncos #BrisbaneLions

FAN ENGAGEMENT FRIDAY: NEWS FROM AROUND THE GROUNDS 26/08/2022

A weekly recap of some of the interesting stories and developments from the educational to the random in the world of fan engagement/experience, stadium/venue news, fan behaviour and psychology, customer service plus much more. Enjoy.

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NRL BRISBANE BRONCOS FAN EXPERIENCE REVIEW, SUNCORP STADIUM, BRISBANE 13/8/22

Another brilliant fan experience and event presentation last night from Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium culminating with a Broncos win 28-10 over Newcastle Knights.


The Paddock Club outside the ground is always a highlight pre-game with the seating area, food trucks and kids zone while the activations inside with the KIA ‘Beast Mode’ and lighting and fireworks show have stepped up the game day entertainment this year.


The free Broncos trading cards have also been some of the best design work from NRL club land this year too.


Well done to all NRL fans from both teams for being respectful during the Paul Green moment of silence and for the venue for setting up a flower memorial outside for fans too.


#FanExperience #FanEngagement #BrisbaneBroncos #SuncorpStadium #NRL

FAN ENGAGEMENT FRIDAY: NEWS FROM AROUND THE GROUNDS 22/07/2022

A weekly recap of some of the interesting stories and developments from the educational to the random in the world of fan engagement/experience, stadium/venue news, fan behaviour and psychology, customer service plus much more. Enjoy.

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State Of Origin III, QLD vs NSW, NRL, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 13/07/22

State of Origin at the Cauldron is always something special but last night at Suncorp Stadium will go down in history as one of the great nights in Queensland Rugby League Maroons history.

A huge shout out and praise to the National Rugby LeagueQueensland Rugby LeagueSuncorp Stadium Stadium and all the catering and cleaning staff plus of course the players and fans who put on this spectacle at Lang Park together last night.

Starting the fan journey on a chilly night in Brisbane (12C 🙂) I made my way into Roma Street Station via free included public transport on the train and walked down a pumping and lively Caxton Street a few hours before kick off.

Making my way into the fan zone past the giant QLD and NSW inflatable heads it was impressive to see the quality event presentation on show with QLD members able to collect free hats as well as specially designed cane toad head pieces as part of the Kane’s Crew QLD cheer squad.

The fan zone was alive with skills drills games for fans young and old featuring sponsor activations from Coates , Chemist WarehouseYoui Insurance and Hisense Group while once inside the ground the welcome to country, indigenous dance and player line up announcements looked incredible, especially with the light show, fireworks and vibrantly colourful light up posts (why haven’t we done the latter sooner!).

A special shout out to the staffer who helped a young fan reunite with his mum after momentarily getting caught up in the exit while on that topic, it couldn’t be easier to leave the venue and walk up Caxton Street or to Milton station to get away and catch free public transport home post game. Just makes the end of the night seamless and positive.

An absolute edge of your seat action packed thriller and one where we got to say, ‘we were there!’ ….how good is it to be back full strength with live sport!

Well done to all involved 👍

Some insights into kids at school today across grade 2-6 on #Origin last night from big lunch playground chats:

– Majority had to go to bed by half time/9pm (mums call they said) so is an earlier start time something to consider? Unlikely…
– Most were shocked by the biff
– Ecstatic with the game + plays + action ‘Ponga was unreal!’
– Biggest audience 10-12 years (younger kids not as interested)
– Increased knowledge of HIA/concussion issues/concerned for players welfare especially Cobbo whose highly rated by kids
– More girls than boys excited by the match (many coming on they say from having watched NRLW and Women’s origin)
– Wanted to know what the hell the weird thing was fans were wearing on their heads…. Kane’s Crew canetoad hats!
– Pizza was the standout takeaway meal 🍕
– Many had family parties/neighbour get-togethers
– Few said they would now ask olds to take them to an NRL game
– Most watched via FTA TV with family but some older kids watched via streaming on mobile
– Thought the pre-game light up goal posts were a cool feature
– Thought I was rich paying $90 for a ticket before I told them that was the cheapest on offer!
– Loved the stats on tv of player speeds
– Could name majority of players from both teams not just Queensland Rugby League
– Ponga the absolute stand out hero that they love
– None of them knew who Powderfinger were haha 😆

Was great to see so many boys and girls run up to me today while kicking soccer balls (still the most popular lunch time sport no matter what school I’m at!) to ask what the atmosphere was like at Suncorp Stadium and tell me their thoughts on the big match. Kids often have a very interesting take on things that some of us oldies might not think about.

Brisbane Broncos NRL Fan Experience at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 10/07/2022

The Brisbane Broncos put on an absolute fan experience master class today at Suncorp Stadium for the 30th anniversary of the 1992 National Rugby League NSWRL Grand Final win.

All week the Broncos front of house has been producing stellar content online and throughout the club for fans with the focus on this Heritage Round clash and they have done an absolutely marvellous effort for fans both on-field, at the venue and online.

From the extremely popular FREE trading cards (hat tip to their designer as these are outstanding!) to the pet zoo that had kids going wild in the Paddock Club to the Tina Turner singer performing classic retro hits at half time, this was a very good game day and testament to the positive family vibes and stellar fan engagement that the Broncos team put on.

The photo booth activation inside the ground was also a cool experience to participate in and similar to one I did back at Staples Center for a LA Kings game in 2015.

The Broncos did a really good job with the retro merchandise too which was flying out of the stadium with caps and special commemorative shirts as well as the 1992 retro and 2022 heritage jerseys being big winners amongst fans today.

The pre-game lap of honour by the class of 1992 along with the fireworks, Buck the Bronco horse and the RACE THE KIA man were all fun highlights for fans too.

As always the fan journey to the ground is outstanding with free travel on public transport (a good tip for anyone driving and parking in the city that the King George Square car park is $5 on weekends and has dedicated pram bays) while I have to give a shout out to the Suncorp Stadium baby change rooms which were clean while the staff member who helped fill up Ramona’s water bottle offered superb customer service and awareness.

Ramona and I had a fantastic family day on her annual visit for a Broncos game day at Suncorp Stadium.

Sport is just so wonderful how it brings us together ❤️

Australia Wallabies Test Match Fan Experience at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Queensland, 09/07/2022

A really great atmosphere on Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium for the Wallabies Rugby Australia versus England Rugby match which finished in a 25-17 win for the Poms.

The fan zone was particularly impressive with loads of exciting free #fanengagement activations for fans such as free try cards for fans as well as:

– NAIDOC hand paintings station
– Cadbury cheer box and in-ground decibel reader.
– Barbershop with expert barbers trimming fans beards
– Skills drills
– Player autographs with kids loving this as the players past and present roamed the outside concourses
– Live music. The band was particularly impressive and had the crowd going off
– Face painting
– Battle of the bands

The digital QR code program was useful while the welcome to country was one of the best I’ve seen around the grounds with the man doing this really revving up the crowd.

I also thought it was outstanding to be able to watch the previous game between Ireland and New Zealand over a beer in the fan zone before heading into the ground.

It’s fantastic that the venue has within the past year opened a dedicated VEGAN outlet on the bottom concourse near 301 because this shows how inclusive they are for fans. It’s great to also see the sustainability on show with the dedicated bottle only bins for recycling.

It was also very pleasant to see how respectful everyone was to the staff at the ground too who were doing a good job in what will be a busy week for #suncorpstadium with three more huge games coming up in Brisbane Broncos Queensland Rugby League Origin and Leeds United Brisbane Roar FC all of which I’ll be attending.

FAN ENGAGEMENT FRIDAY: NEWS FROM AROUND THE GROUNDS 03/06/2022

A weekly recap of some of the interesting stories and developments from the educational to the random in the world of fan engagement/experience, stadium/venue news, fan behaviour and psychology and customer service plus much more. Enjoy

10 sports marketing trends modern marketers need to watch

MLS and adidas unveil 2022 Primeblue kits to inspire action against plastic waste

Forced fan engagement at the footy falls flat

Women at the Track: A team of women who help make Indy 500 race day happen

US$16 can of Stella Artois at MLS stadium sparks outrage

How Supply Chain Issues Are Impacting the Sports Industry

Northern Territory AFL taskforce unveils $300 million Darwin CBD stadium as expansion centrepiece

How deepening the connection with sports fans helps sports-brands

Poor customer service is strangling business growth

SAP partners with New Zealand Rugby for digital transformation

Date with destiny: The wild ride from Project Apollo lift-off to now

Crypto and sports bet on winning combination to woo fans

Meta Partners with NBA for Virtual Reality Fan Engagement Games, Activities

Meet the TT fan who has travelled from Germany to the Isle of Man for every race since 1981

8 new food options at the Mariners’ T-Mobile Park, including a $3 hot dog (!?) — plus which to avoid

“The role of each brand is really important”: Inside PepsiCo’s Champions League sponsorship

AC Milan ‘moves closer to fanbase’ with Betsson partnership

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland FAs agree M&S Food deal

Warriors Up for Multiple Fan Favorite Honors

WATCH: Liverpool fans travel to France by dinghy after flights cancelled

Football fans allowed for China’s Covid-delayed kick-off

IPL 2022 Final: World’s Largest Jersey Unveiled Ahead Of GT vs RR High-Voltage Clash In Ahmedabad – WATCH

Rise of the global fan: Just ONE PER CENT of Manchester City’s supporters actually live in the UK as the biggest Premier League clubs use social media, content in 14 languages and even the metaverse to reach out to fans around the world

Athletic director, social media weigh in on public alcohol sales at Georgia football home games

‘Fans’ explores how cheering for sports impacts people’s psyche, behavior and attitude

Cost of Hobart stadium likely to be higher than $750m, documents show

Astor Park murals tie together Crew Stadium and commercial development

Can I talk to a human? Spain presents customer service bill

Spanish government proposes law banning automated customer service

Introducing UEFA Play: All you need to know about UEFA’s new music and audio content hub

‘We want to be penetrating popular culture’: How McLaren Racing are engaging the next generation of motorsport fans

ABBA Arena raises the bar for temporary architecture

The Fan Connection: The Impact Connectivity Has on the Fan Experience

Data drives fan experience at D.C. United

Super League Triathlon offering fans franchise control via LiveLike platform

The law catches up with viagogo – event promoters and music fans are the winners

Real Betis launch jersey NFTs in Fancurve’s first soccer club partnership

Lakers Logo Earns Top Marks Across the Board in Recent Fan Survey

Infosys and Roland-Garros Launch Digital Innovations to Bring Alive the Tournament’s Legacy, While Equipping Future Generations Through a New STEM Initiative

The Sports Fans Who Root for…the Referees

Crypto and NFTs: Virtually there? Just a start so far A third of fans embrace crypto and NFTs, but the rest have concerns about regulation and real value

EFL CEO Trevor Birch writes open letter on crowd behaviour

What Makes Good Customer Service?

Brands Are Getting More Personal, but How Are Customers Responding?

Why Consistency Is Vital to Your Branding Efforts

Matchday experience for disabled fans ‘unfit for purpose’

Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs NRL Fan Experience at Belmore Sports Ground, Sydney, Australia 29/05/2022

Today was a game day fan experience that I’ve been wanting to do since the mid 90’s when I watched the Canterbury Bulldogs defeat Manly in the 1995 ARL Grand Final. 


I started the fan journey with a 25-minute train ride from Central Station to Belmore station before walking around the local streets to soak up the suburb and the game-day vibe. Blue and white streamers, balloons, and posters lined the shopfronts and it was evident that the locals really get behind the Bulldogs and game days here. 


The trip out to Belmore Sports Ground was enjoyable as I talked to a few Bulldogs fans on the train about Terry Lamb and the Dogs on what was a glorious Sunday afternoon in Sydney for my third and final game day this weekend in town. 


Hopping off the train at Belmore it was a quick walk following the Bulldogs fans the short distance to the Belmore ground entrance and through Terry Lamb reserve park. The Bulldog’s street art livened up the concrete facades while gate staff were pleasant, smiling, and wished us a good day at the match. 

I had wanted to check out some of the plaques, murals, memorbillia and the Canterbury Leagues Club which is adjacent to the train station however time got away from me as I wanted to get to the ground early. I’ll endeavour to check these out next time I’m out this way as I hope to be back for another game day at Belmore down the track.


It was really exciting upon entry to just soak up this gorgeous suburban footy ground from the grassy hill to the Peter Moore scoreboard and canteen. I walked around the length and breadth of the venue taking in all the angles from the Bulldog’s front entrance to the white bench seats and the main stand.

 
The food and beverage selection consisted of local food trucks and canteens selling standard footy fare like pies and chips along with kids’ favourites in cotton candy and ice cream while gourmet food items were also on offer and looked tasty from local businesses. Prices were standard from $5-15 while mid-strength cans of beer were $8 with only one beer variety available in Great Northern for obvious reasons given the one-off event here and the planning involved for catering. As for the beer tray price watch, these were free here. It’s always interesting to see the little things like the price of beer trays. Over this weekend they’ve ranged from $1.50 to 80c to free!


The fan engagement for kids and families was quality with face painting and kids jumping castle but even more, kids were just having fun rolling down the hills and passing or kicking footies with their families which looked like an enjoyable experience.


Toilets were scattered on either side and lines were only really heavy at halftime with men and women being able to get in and out fairly quickly from what I could witness. 


The hill was absolutely packed and looked incredible today with Bulldogs, Dragons, and Illawarra Steelers fans with 16,991 fans turning out to make this a huge sell-out crowd. It was a real carnival footy vibe with fans fully engaged in the community spirit of suburban footy as well as reconciliation week and the focus of the Indigenous round. 


The Indigenous focus for NRL Indigenous Round featured a respectful welcome to country, singers, and music on the land of the Dharug, Eora & Bediagal Peoples. 


The dogs tried to come back a few times but the Dragons pulled away too quickly and ran out 34-24 winners on a sunny but very windy and chilly day at Belmore. I was very glad I brought my heavy retro Bulldogs jersey to the game as it was very chilly on the hill by 4pm.


The merchandise tent and mobile store had fans lined up as items like the indigenous jersey and retro cord Bulldogs caps went flying out the door. I really liked seeing the use of the old Bulldogs logos too around the venue and on merchandise and hope other teams start to bring these back as well.

I also thought that it was clever that some fans had brought in their own milk crates to enable their kids to get a better vantage point on the hill as well.


The exit from the match was easy with the train station right at the stadium and within a 5-8 minute walk before the 20-odd minute train ride back to the Sydney CBD. 


I was so excited today to tick off another Australian sporting venue in Belmore Sports Ground and would encourage any fan to get out here the next time they bring a game day here as it is truly something special to witness at such an iconic ground.

Cronulla Sharks NRL Fan Experience at Points Bet Stadium/Shark Park, Cronulla, Sydney, 28/05/22

It was a cool night in Sydney as I made the trek from Central station down south to Woolaware station in Cronulla for the Sharks versus Roosters (Cronulla vs Easts) NRL rugby league match at Points Bet Stadium or Shark Park (or Caltex Field) for the league aficionados. 


Taking the train for about $5 one way on the Sutherland line I left the city at about 5pm to travel the hour or so to the closest train station within walking distance to the stadium.


Arriving into Woolaware station just after 6pm, I walked the 15 minutes or so south through unlit suburban Cronulla streets to the stadium with other fans who had made the same journey. 


It’s an easy walk to the venue and you can hear the music and see the lights from the distance as you get closer but it’s also very dark along the path of the back streets to the ground so careful on your feet.


The stadium is undergoing construction all around it both for the stadium and for the buildings close by however this didn’t stop the game from being a sell-out with fans flocking to the popular indigenous round game tonight. 


This is an old-school venue without the bells and whistles, without the tech, with the lines and bottlenecks but it’s also a ground with soul, community vibes and a charm that is hard to beat. The fans bring the atmosphere and combined with the energy on the hill, the match days here are electric and pumping. 


Walking into the venue through the old turnstile hut, we were greeted with a polite welcome and asked if we knew where we were going which is 10/10 for customer service and the fan journey to have someone offer to assist you in my opinion. 


Making my way inside I grabbed a beer at the first bar I found which was charging $8.50 for middies but in tinnies and 80c for a cardboard tray. The ability to get an ice-cold tin at the footy seems to be lost in some states’ venues across Australia but in Sydney, it’s great to be able to crack a coldie and take up a view from the hill. It’s relaxed and enjoyable to stand on the grassy hill, strike up a conversation with other fans and take in the action on the field. Retro sharks jerseys were abundant tonight and you could have made about 20 full teams of players in Power’s Brewers retros or Aussie Duct kits.


I walked around the venue a couple of times to soak it all up here, from the smells of hot cinnamon donuts and spicy bratwursts cooking to the sounds of laughter from families and kids rolling down the hill and kicking footies to each other. It’s all just a really positive community vibe out here at Cronulla. 


The food and beverages ranged from the standard fare of pies and hot dogs to gourmet bratwursts (standard $12 and double bangers $20!) and buttermilk chicken burgers and crisps for $15.50. There was also ice cream, souvlaki, nachos, and the ever-popular chips on a stick. Prices were standard for footy matches with the main difference being the abundance of local gourmet food truck offerings. Lines were long at times and bottlenecks formed due to the compact size of the venue and narrow concourses however like most venues you can bring in your own snacks and it’s always best to grab food before the match kicks off plus these lines got smaller as the game got underway. 


The fan engagement (kids jumping castle) and activations from sponsors (player photo ops and giveaways to fans) as well as the half time entertainment were quality with the indigenous focus for NRL Indigenous Round being a highlight to see Australian country legend Col Hardy perform ‘I am, You Are, We Are Australian’ to a rapturous sing-along and applause from the crowd. The fireworks and music also added to the atmosphere. 


A highlight before kick-off was the exceptional welcome to country by a lovely lady whose name I missed on the night. This indigenous elder spoke so beautifully about respect, inclusion and community and summed up so perfectly the basis of the round and also what we can all do to make our country a more respectful and tolerant place to live in.


The Kurranulla Sharks got flogged from the get-go by the Gadigal Roosters in this one-sided match with Easts running out 36-16 winners in a dissapointing night for local fans and a score I didn’t predict and which ruined my tips. All was not lost though as we and many others had a fantastic time at Shark Park with local fans. 


The exit home from Shark Park was a brisk 15-minute walk back to the train station at Woolaware and then a 50-minute train ride home to Central station. The only downside was that the toilets were locked at Woolaware station which frustrated some fans and even police who were annoyed that they couldn’t use them. 


Overall a quality night out at Cronulla’s home venue of Points Bet/Shark Park stadium with much to enjoy about the fan experience here on a moving indigenous round night. 

Penrith Panthers NRL Fan Experience at BlueBet Stadium/Panthers Stadium, Penrith, 27/05/22

It was a chilly but clear afternoon in Sydney when I made my way from Town Hall Station in the Sydney CBD out west to Penrith’s BlueBet Stadium for the NRL rugby league top of the table clash between reigning premiers Penrith Panthers and the North Queensland Cowboys.


Arriving in Penrith after a solid one-hour train journey for the sum of around $4.50 on my public transport OPAL card, I made my way through the city centre out to the stadium in what was an easy flat 20-minute or 1.5km walk passing through the local streets with other fans, flags in hand, marching to the game.


Once I arrived outside the ground, I walked around all angles of this classic space taking in the scoreboard and the old beauty of these classic suburban rugby league grounds such as the hill, scoreboard, ticket booths, and entrances that are all timeless and part of the game day architecture here.


Entering through the turnstiles we were greeted with a lively hello from security and a happy welcome from gate staff. Passing through the entrance is the merch area along in a shed with the member’s wall plaque that details the names of members who stuck by the club in 2020’s pandemic COVID season.


Kids and fans alike were able to get free TRY banners and there was a crypto giveaway while the panther claw prints in the bars acting as 1.5m social distancing and line markers looked effective with TVs playing the games too so you didn’t miss the action when getting a drink. 


The food and beverage on offer here ranged from snack bars to drinks bars along with a multitude of local food trucks. The $5 cheese toasties are a bargain while other items along with drinks are about $1 cheaper for members which is a great incentive to see. Beers are probably (Moreton Daily Stadium slightly cheaper) the cheapest in an Australian sporting venue at $5-8 while even if not a member it’s still very affordable. The beer trays were $1.50 here tonight and made of plastic. I had what I think is the best pie at a rugby league game in the Garlo’s Pies steak variety and paired it with a Iron Jack for $10.80 which was very good value in my opinion for a major sporting event.


The fan engagement KIDZ KORNER is a fun carnival atmosphere for kids and families with rides and an ice cream truck located at the back of the ground and there is plenty of space both on the hill and back here for kids and families to kick and pass the footy.


The atmosphere from Penrith fans is right up there with their ‘Stand Up, Flags Up’ call to action before kick-off really getting fans ready to go with their fans really bringing the noise to the pre-game. 


Panthers legend Royce Simmons was congratulated for his 300km charity walk for dementia while the Indigenous welcome to country and music was respectful and inclusive and had fans listening and clapping on what was a special night for the game and players.


I walked around the ground a few times soaking up my second time here by checking out different seating angles and marveling at the gorgeous, sacred hill that had fans rugged up in picnic rugs and blankets. While some lines were long to get F&B, there is a charm about these old grounds that cannot be beaten. I didn’t have to wait long to get a beer with a friendly security guard making sure everyone was having a good time at the ‘beer only’ bar.


The Panthers were too good over the Cowboys on a chilly night in Penrith running out 22-0 winners. 


Getting away at the end was seamless and efficient with the trains lined up to full time and a relatively quick one-hour train trip back into the Sydney CBD after a brisk 15 minute walk back to the station. Local streets looked to be ok to park in as well as fans were hopping into cars close by to the ground. 


A really fun rugby league matchday experience out here in Penrith that I’d encourage other rugby league fans to get out to. 

Fan Engagement Friday: News from around the grounds 27/05/2022

A weekly recap of some of the interesting stories and developments from the educational to the random in the world of fan engagement/experience, stadium/venue news, fan behaviour and psychology and customer service plus much more. Enjoy

AFL, Reddit announce world’s first sports partnership for Reddit Avatars

NHL mixed reality event

Football fans, rejoice: Stadium internet speeds are set for a significant boost

NFL Fan Rankings: Washington Worst?!

The Best Customer Service Software of 2022 Has Been Revealed by End Users

Sports Business Journal names Climate Pledge Arena sports facility of the year

Ordr Keeps Fans in the Seats, All by Making Food and Merch Only a Tap of an App Away

Fans Can Now Win the Stanley Cupple by Playing the NHL’s Version of Wordle

Football fans convicted of taking cocaine at matches could face five-year stadium bans

NTT reveals new data boost to improve IndyCar fan experience

‘The end goal is to turn fan engagement into fan monetisation’: Sportradar’s data-led approach to capitalising on the US$270bn sports betting market

Arsenal corner flag: Using data to reach club’s 750m fans

Populous Projects Win Facility of the Year, Event of the Year at 2022 Sports Business Awards

WNBA Fans Criticize Coinbase Sponsorship Amid Market Crash

FA investigating pitch invasions, condemns ‘anti-social behaviour’ from fans

Nine Techniques To Keep Customer Support Conversations Productive And Positive

Tottenham’s Todd Kline talks stadium naming rights, NFTs, and thinking like a “content creation machine”

Virtual stadium developer plays in $3.2 million to up the game of e-sports in metaverse

Sports venues create quiet refuge for fans with sensory needs

Sensory rooms becoming more commonplace in sports venues

Building Long-term Loyalty Through Incentives

NBA Top Shot Reaches $1B in Sales Amid NFT Market Downturn

The Crypto Market’s Impact on Sports Sponsorships

Adam Silver Says NBA Fan Aggression Not Caused by Sports Betting

LaLiga to build official metaverse for fans and partners with TVM

Top 5 Customer Service Skills To Encourage In Your Staff

Customer Experience Trumps Even the Best Technologies

F1 trials paddock robots to help fans in hospital meet drivers

Qatar’s ‘Dr Cool’ keeps World Cup stadiums chilly with solar-powered AC

Manchester City FC Partners with Quidd to Launch New NFT Collection

Blockchain, crypto set to take sports industry beyond NFT collectibles

Drama and atmosphere should be the only metrics in Australia’s stadium wars

Japan’s pro sports teams find use for empty stadiums

Yokohama BayStars baseball team offers home stadium’s private boxes to teleworkers

In first year with fans at Allegiant Stadium, the no-show rate was 14.3 percent

Proceeds from recycling at Mercedes-Benz Stadium builds new homes on Atlanta’s Westside through new program

Is Customer Loyalty Dead?

World Cup host, Qatar with air-conditioned stadiums to serve as a model

Dazzling But Empty Stadiums a Symbol of China’s Fading Football Dream

Prices are surging, but fans are still paying top dollar to watch live sports

Placemaking, legacy and the 2032 Games

A 2022 blueprint for customer service excellence

How to Identify the Pain Points That Make Customers Decide What They’re Going to Buy

At Your Service: How To Wow Your Customers By Creating New Revenue Streams

Case Study: Real-Time Fan Engagement Explodes With Live, Local Access to NFL Draft

USGA Announces Fan Offerings for Women’s Open

Major League soccer club Columbus Crew gains the Edge

UofL announces WiFi, gate entry upgrades to Cardinal Stadium driven by fan feedback from 2021

Manchester City on taking the ‘City DNA’ global

Eagles become 1st team to expand fan outreach efforts to Africa

‘Way cooler than standing in line’: Mariners fans get first crack at Amazon tech in new ballpark market

5G to Transform Fan Experience at Indy 500

Cavaliers on Top 25 Most Innovative Teams in Sports List

The rise of the always-on mobile user and implications for customer service and retention 

The Verdict Is In: Customer Service Isn’t Human Enough

A Golf Fan Just Got A Deal With Michelob

Deloitte 2022 Sports Industry Outlook

Avoid these common mistakes to create real customer loyalty

FC Barcelona, the world’s most innovative team according to Sports Innovation Lab

Old Trafford will have ‘fans, not corporates’ at its heart, promises architect tasked with redevelopment

NRL MAGIC ROUND 2022 Fan Experience Review, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 13-15 May 2022

The annual NRL Magic Round event was back at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium for 2022 and despite a week when the rain across Queensland caused persistent widespread flooding the event still drew over 100,000 fans through the turnstiles across the three event days.

With the rain falling heavily across the Friday and Saturday but easing on the third day, fans made their way into the stadium precinct decked out with ponchos and umbrellas but still managed to bring all their colour and atmosphere from the thousands of retro to modern rugby league jerseys on display from fans of all ages. This is a true celebration of rugby league and league fans with supporters rocking Gold Coast Chargers and Seagulls kits to South Queensland Crushers and Western Reds jerseys amongst the smorgasbord of the current 16 NRL teams. It’s this colour, fan passion and atmosphere that is a magical component of this event off the field.

The downloadable stadium map and event guide were handy additions to kick start the planning of the fan journey at Magic Round with the map coming in handy to locate all of the activations both inside and outside the venue. The 32-page event guide had information on merchandise, activations, match-ups, key timings and more valuable information to ensure fans knew everything they needed to know to capitalise on a massive fun weekend of rugby league.

After reminiscing over some old footy cards and beers we decided to head in for the matches on Saturday at 1PM. We made our way into the stadium precinct on the train from Dutton Park station into Roma Street station in the city with the train being packed with rugby league fans in a positive vibe for the three matches being played today for day two. It was a sea of league fans of all ages walking through The Barracks centre in Milton down to Suncorp Stadium and despite the rain that lingered for most of the day and night the fans were still in a very upbeat mood with the bars along Caxton Street pumping with conversations, beers and footy food as thousands of fans commandeered the road heading down to the venue. It was also nice to see the new artwork ‘Welcome’ which featured 25 laser-cut steel hunting boomerangs with welcome greetings in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language dialects.

What’s On at the Stadium: Precinct

Making my way around the Suncorp Stadium precinct from the Caxton Street end to the Roma Street end the event offered an outstanding first impression of the event presentation that included plenty of activations for fans of all ages such as:

1. Bundy Pop Up Bar

Fans were able to grab a drink from the Bundy Pop Up Bar with the first fans to purchase a Bundy from the Bundaberg Pop Up Bar each day of NRL Magic Round receiving a double pass upgrade for a specific match into the Bundy Backyard Deck inside the stadium. This bar shed was at an entrance point of the NRL Fan Zone area and it was good to see security guards helping people by warning them to be careful entering the space as the ground was slippery and getting slightly muddy.

2. Chemist Warehouse Chill Out Zone

This was a relaxing spot for fans to kick back and chill with deck chairs and beanbags to watch the big screen during and between matches. I believe the deck chairs may have been packed up due to the rain at some point as it would not have been the best setting for them with the rain falling nonstop. Fans also received free gift bags that included chemist items like moisturiser and sunscreen along with a gym towel which for many fans, myself included is stuff I will actually use.  Mascot Wally the Chemist Warehouse Mascot (how did they come up with a mascot name for CW?) surprised fans with upgrades into the Chemist Warehouse Deck inside the venue while there was a fun reaction wall game to play. I finished on 29 which wasn’t too bad considering the top score was 37. I’ll put that down to my good skills in quick thinking and reaction time to putting out arguments amongst grade 4 students that made me go fairly well in this fun game.

3. CUB Great Northern Bar

The CUB beer garden was open between matches where fans could enjoy a drink from the Great Northern bar. The first 50 people to purchase a drink also received a stubby cooler. This was a nice set up that faced away from the venue and towards Caxton street with a live stage below featuring artists playing tunes.

4. Ampol Magic Carpet

Fans were able to experience walking down the red carpet by taking their best Ampol Magic Carpet photo. By sharing it across socials they had the chance to be upgraded into the Ampol Deck inside the stadium. We had a go of this and I even used the fuel bowser emoji in my witty caption all to no avail….must of been the Illawarra Steelers jersey I was wearing. Still a lot of fun for my friends and I to take home a few photos.

5. YOUI Magic Kick

Fans could come down to the Youi Magic Kick in the Precinct to have a go at kicking a footy through the posts!

6. Harvey Norman Photo Station

If fans visited the Harvey Norman station they could collect their FREE magic round photo as well as purchase limited edition Magic Round personalised NRL products. This was a fun activation with my mates and I getting snapped for an event pic that was free to take home. The personalised merch also looked really colourful too.

7. Letter Lights

Fans could grab a photo in front of the Giant Magic Round Letter lights to then share it on channels to #NRLMagic.

8. Swyftx Giant Human Claw

The Swyftx Giant Human Claw was giving away thousands of dollars in prizes over NRL Magic Round weekend, including $5,000 in Bitcoin every day.  Fans could come down and participate in the human-sized version of the traditional arcade game to win these prizes. I watched this for a few participants to have their go and it was actually pretty entertaining. There were obviously a lot of OWHS things to consider with this activation and the weather did not make it any easier. Watching a fan dive down to get an NRL ball and then that ball revealing a prize was quite entertaining and there was certainly enough interest from the fans who had lined up to have a go.

9. Food Trucks

There were plenty of food truck options with gourmet offerings including Eat Fresh kebabs, Chipstars, Brat Haus, Dinky D’d Doughnuts and more. $7 for a dagwood dog and $13 kebabs were affordable for a snack in this fan precinct even if you weren’t intending to go into the venue as this was a fun spot to sit, watch the games and drink and eat.

10. EISS Super Ball

Get your photo taken in front of the giant EISS Super and Steeden Inflatable football.

11. Kids Zone

Magic Round brings the festival vibes for the whole family! Kids were able to get a photo with their favourite team’s mascot, get geared up with face painting, & show off their skills with the magic pass the Ball. With the rain falling all around some fan activities were slow to get going as fans didn’t want to wait in the lines with the rain however it didn’t stop many families and kids from still participating in these free fun activities to take home some memories.

12. NRL Merchandise

Fans could grab their Magic Round mementos exclusively at the venue at the six or so merchandise outlets around the stadium! All 16 teams’ merchandise was also available for purchase like retro jerseys. I was able to pre-plan the purchase of some merch for my daughter like a football and a bucket hat for my work at school by looking through the event guide before heading in, however due to the popularity of many items, these sold out quick smart which was unfortunate but shows the popularity of fans who want to support the NRL, love rugby league and want to rep all 16 teams. Plus the designs were pretty neat too.

What’s On at the Stadium: In-Ground

1. Telstra Live Stage

The Telstra Live Stage hosted music entertainment, DJ’s and performances throughout the NRL Magic Round weekend and was located in the corner of the venue.

2. KFC Fry/No Fry Banners

Fans could give their viewer’s verdict with the KFC Fry/No Fry banners. KFC brand ambassadors inside the stadium handed out Fry/No Fry banners to fans. KFC was also surprising and delighting lucky fans across the weekend with KFC vouchers to redeem KFC.

3. Steeden Magic Ball

Players were throwing Steeden NRL Magic Round footies into the crowd after each match for fans to keep as well as using the tee shirt gun to fire off what I presume were jerseys or shirts from various teams.

4. KFC Bucket Catch

Two lucky fans picked from the crowd matched up against each other on the field during half-time at selected matches across NRL Magic Round weekend. Each fan had to catch as many footies as possible in their KFC bucket to WIN KFC vouchers and merchandise!

5. Telstra Fan Cam

Fans could get involved with the Telstra Fan Cam to win a signed jersey from their favourite NRL team.

6. Ampol Pump It Up Cam

Fans could show their support for their team with the Ampol Pump It Up Cam for their chance to win a $100 fuel voucher. The big screens featured hilarious kiss cams, ‘make some noise’ call outs as well as oblivious cam and a few other funny moments that got a good reception from the crowd. 

7. Telstra Tracker LED Race

Lucky fans across NRL Magic Round weekend got the chance to race against some of the fastest players in the game. The one we saw was able to beat the Telstra Tracker and was quite fast.

8. Ampol Deck

The Ampol ‘Australia’s Own’ Deck was Australian-themed and included a full food & beverage package for guests.  Fans could take their best red-carpet photo at the Ampol Magic Carpet activation in the stadium precinct and share it across socials for the chance to be upgraded into the Ampol Deck. This was a brightly blue coloured event space at the Caxton Street end inside one of the stadium corners and stood out amongst the other social spaces.

9. Bundy Backyard Deck

The Bundy Backyard Deck was the ideal spot to kick back with mates for the best seats in the house at NRL Magic Round.  Guests received full food and beverage offering and the opportunity to meet and greet with NRL legends.  Fans who were one of the first to purchase a Bundy from the Bundy Pop Up Bar in the stadium precinct each day of NRL Magic Round were lucky to receive a double pass upgrade for a specific match into the Bundy Backyard Deck inside the stadium for the best seats in the house. This was another themed social space that looked really impressive for the presentation in one of the corners of the venue.

10. Chemist Warehouse Deck

Guests to the Chemist Warehouse deck received full food and beverage offering, the opportunity to meet and greet with NRL legends and an exclusive product gift bag upon arrival. A relaxing spot in the corner of the venue.

11. Free flags for supporter bay fans

Fans who purchased a supporter bay ticket were able to collect a free supporter flag that featured all 16 club logos on a colourful flag design. They were handing these out to fans everywhere and I was lucky enough to get one for my daughter which will go nicely in her room. A really nice simple touch for a physical item that fans could take home.

12. Lighting

The light shows and themed LED lighting was vibrant and looked good both inside the stadium and on TV. The ability to switch between themes either teams or colourful light shows added to the atmosphere and created a positive vibe to make this a big-time event. The fireworks and flames at the end of the try lines also pumped up the crowd either when the teams were running out or when tries were scored.

Fan Experience Elements

While thousands of fans made for a busy stadium precinct both inside and out it was clear that venue did a very good job of keeping fans safe and ensuring the fan experience was quality. With the rain falling constantly and fans getting wet it was good to see the concourses being managed well to allow the safe and efficient flow of fans despite fans crowding along the bays to try to stay dry and still watch the game. Security and ushers were managing this as best they could under the circumstances.

The staff were really efficient and attentive as I made three enquiries and had interactions with different staff members over the course of the night for some things that I thought needed to be addressed such as glass in the concourse area, catering staff inadvertently blocking a stairwell and an aggressive fan who was throwing items onto the field and agitating other fans. In every situation, the venue and security staff were very helpful and switched on to ensure fans were having an enjoyable event experience.

Food and beverage options were plentiful and inclusive with the frozen cocktails proving to be very popular amongst fans along with Pirate Life craft beer for beverages. It was good to see the dedicated vegan stand in action along with vegan and gluten-free options available in the concession outlets while there were combo deals available as well. From pies, pizza slices and chicken wings and chips to American BBQ, fish and chips and hot dogs, there really was something here to tempt all tastebuds with many prices being affordable and expected for major event days. Beers ranged from $9-11 with most food around the $6-16 mark. I had a fairly decent salad sandwich and 600ml Coke Zero which came in at $11 and which I thought was pretty good value for a footy feed.

Toilets were clean and lines, even for female fans seemed to be moving fast. Staff were abundant around the venue and were seen cleaning constantly throughout the night. I said to one staffer that he was doing a good job and he said no one has ever said that before. It’s something I make a point of doing, especially for cleaning staff and young folks on the concession registers. They do a good job and deserve to be told they’re going well so if you’re at a venue then make sure you give them a little shout out.

The exit at the end of the night was efficient and seamless with buses, trains and taxis all flowing from the venue and making it easy for fans to get home safely. Way-finding signs as well as helpful staff directing fans also just made the exit swift and simple after a long day at the venue. 

NRL Magic Round is an event like no other. The fans are equal to the athletes in terms of the atmosphere and colourful vibe that the event brings and it’s certainly a major sporting event that I reccomend any rugby league or sports fan to go and check out.

Gold Coast Suns AFL Fan Experience at Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast, Australia 24/4/22

On a wet and chilly Sunday afternoon I hit the highway from Brisbane to head down the M1 to the Gold Coast to take in the Gold Coast Suns AFL fan experience at Metricon Stadium in Nerang.

Today’s match was to be the Suns versus the Brisbane Lions in the annual QCLASH derby as well as representing an ANZAC Day ceremony to honour our servicemen and women.

I prepped for the match day by getting my daughter Ramona all dressed up in a Gold Coast Suns dress that I bought for her to show her support for another Queensland team (her first ever dress- which she hated, the dress that is!) while I pulled out my Brisbane Bears wool guernsey, grabbed my Sherrin footy, new Lions cord cap from the Lions shop and some fresh ANZAC biscuits to share with mates and laminated my printed out match day ticket to save as my ticket memento to go into my box of 1000+ tickets from 30 years of live events – anything to keep the physical part of the event day ticking on in my opinion.

The fan journey started at 1pm with a quick 50 minute car journey via tolls from Brisbane to Nerang Railway Station. Nerang Station has ample parking and a lockable bicycle station as well as open bike racks. I made sure to park via the exits under security cameras for better safety and to get away faster at the end of the night however by 2pm the car park was filling up with Lions and Suns fans meaning that this is a safe and secure place to leave your car and head to the match due to the number of people coming through here on match days.

Once parked I made my way through the station to the bus terminal area where the game day buses were starting up at 2pm to ferry fans to Metricon Stadium. The buses were free for fans with the transport included within the ticket, as was the train from Brisbane if fans had chosen to catch the train from Brisbane to Nerang Station. However with track work today on the Gold Coast line, driving to the station and then catching this free bus seemed like the best option.

The bus driver was cheerful as Suns and Lions fans hoped on the bus and I was impressed with security greeting everyone that was getting on and asking us who would win while the bus driver was equally impressive ensuring that fans were safely picked up along the way despite there only being the one designated stop at the venue which was a helpful thing to do for those fans who were walking to the ground. The bus arrived directly outside the stadium after a short five minute journey which made it a seamless entry into the ground. It was also important to note that since my last visit here a couple of years ago, parking restrictions have gone up similar to around The Gabba and Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane meaning restrictions apply on match days and it is not advisable to try to park as you risk a fine.

Parking is also available within the stadium for only $20 via the Ticketmaster site however this does seem to sell out quickly in the week leading up to match day. Metricon also has a ride share and public pick up and drop off zone near the venue too with accessible entry and exit to the stadium.

Making our way into the stadium was seamless and we were greeted by a ‘hello’ and ‘thanks for coming’ by the venue staff. I then made my way over to the AFL Record stand and picked up a copy of the ANZAC round AFL Record which is still a bargain at $5 and a game day tradition I never miss.

This is one of my favourite AFL venues in Australia for a number of reasons. The views are great wherever you sit while the ease of access to get in and out to get food and drinks or to go to the toilets is also not a hassle. I love a venue you can walk the full distance around and here at Metricon Stadium you can walk both the inside and outside concourses to take in the full sights and smells of the match day as well as accessing all the types of food on offer and not being cut off by security or ushers.

On the food and beverage front while there were food trucks and permanent food stalls in abundance I found the food offering we sampled to be below par and quite disappointing however this was no doubt not the opinion of every fan who purchased food items at the event. The hot chips we purchased for $6.50 were flavourless (my friend had a delicious peppery salt on his while mine had nothing which was odd) and undercooked while the hot dog looked quite sad presentation wise for $6.50 and the pie for $5.75 had hard pastry like a rock. There was an assortment of options from Chipsters offering dagwood dogs and loaded fries to a Kebab stand meaning there truly was something for every fan to get around. There were also wings and chips and Hawaiian burger combos along with churros and even popcorn boxes to satisfy fans tastes and preferences for both young and old with the more substantial offerings costly $15-$17.

Prices seemed quite high compared to other venues for items such as hot dogs and chips while the beer was fresh and on par with Australian venues with a Carlton Mid tinnie (served into a plastic cup) at $8.95 while Great Northern schooners were $9.80 and craft beer from Pirate Life Brewing Co (CUB/South Australian) was $11.20 for their mid-strength or $8.50 for their 0.9% light beer which all in all represented normal pricing and a good variety for beer drinkers. Furthermore some bars did not have electronic boards displaying prices or price lists so you weren’t sure how much you were paying until it was round up at the til.

The venue has an impressive outside concourse as as well as an inside open concourse which offers plenty of space to roam, order food and drinks as well as find a space to sit and take in the event away from your actual seats. It’s one of my favourite grounds because of the open space and the flexibility you have to walk around the venue on a game day. There are multiple member’s bars (one with a live band called The Fifth Quarter) as well as a Carlton Draught bar for Suns members and fans while there are chairs and tables and plenty of green space including a massive oval only 50 metres from the stands where you can kick footies on all throughout the match day. This is a big incentive for families and young fans who who come along as they can bring in their footballs to the match and head out for a pre, mid or post game kick as we did with our own Sherrin that was a lot of fun.

The sponsor activation social spaces were impressive and included the Carlton Draught bar and a comfy couch seating area overlooking the field of play (could not see sponsor, perhaps Metricon). There were two sponsor activation set ups that really caught my eye though and these included the Metricon Homes ‘Terrace’ that was a fully fledged house within the stadium that included a balcony overlooking the field while the Plungie Pool area was also eye-catching with its pool, lifeguard and blue astroturf seating.

The toilets here were clean and spacious with no lines seen throughout the night for either the women’s or men’s with the men’s having a lot of space to walk in and out quickly with soap and tap all working fine. Hand sanitisers were available around the ground and after checking three which had sanitiser in them on my travels around the venue it was good to see them filled up unlike on recent stadium visits where they have been on show but not filled up.

The views are simply breathtaking here with views on the ground level or up in the stands affording fans a cracking close up view of the action no matter the seating rake. Behind the goals at the scoreboard is also a place worth sitting and while not undercover affords fans a close up view of the action. Sitting high up in section 216 we did still get slightly wet as the rain permeated through the worn roof tarps with the roof, rails and shades all looking like they need a thorough clean. The way-finding in the stadium was not too difficult to see where to go for food, seating sections or toilets but I thought it could be made a bit more clearer and in larger text to make it more visible. I saw a few ushers on the night cheerfully helping fans however there was not one in our stand or the one adjacent, however it seemed that fans made their way to their seats easily with the night running very smoothly as well for stadium staff. Accessible seating is clearly marked and available for those fans needing it while outside the concourses there are merchandise stands offering both Suns and away fans the option of securing a piece of merch.

The Suns fan engagement really stands out and is underrated in my opinion both for AFL teams and in other Australian sporting teams. The Suns really cater well for families and kids with a big feature being their Suns ‘Little Legends’ train that runs around the venue picking up young fans and families and taking them on a fun casual train ride around the outside of the stadium concourse. The Suns do a lot for their members with the social spaces previously listed however they also have a member raise their Suns flag up the flagpole each game while they also have a junior reporter, Suns photo wall, face painting, a kids zone out the back and a member’s guard of honour. Screen activations like Air Guitar and the on-field kick the footy into the Plungie Pool were also fun to watch – I reckon I could have nailed the kick into the footy easily (It’s all about wearing the right shoes for on field fan engagement if you’re ever selected to participate!).

It was also good to see the way the Suns acknowledge their members with big plaques inside the venue honouring those fans who have shown their dedication as members along with history charts across the seating bowl that highlight the Suns formation and history on the Gold Coast over the past decade.

The Suns ANZAC Day ceremony was handled respectfully and included a marching band, the last post and the national anthems and it was good to see everyone take their hats off and stand in silence to appreciate the ANZACs and what this day means to so many Australian and New Zealander’s.

While it was an entertaining game in the rain, the Lions ended up running away with the win 132-80 before the final siren sounded and fans made their exits. I found it easy to leave the venue and the signage for the buses back to Nerang Station or to Broadbeach were easily identifiable with bus staff also speaking to fans to ensure they were headed in the right direction. Within five minutes of lining up we were on a bus and on our way back to the train station which again only took five minutes journey before heading back to the cars and home within an hour to Brisbane.

A Gold Coast Suns AFL game day at Metricon Stadium is a very worthy event day visit in my opinion, either as a Suns fan or as in my case travelling for an away day as a Lions fan. From the views and the big oval for a kick to the Suns fan engagement andd the ease of the fan journey both in and out, it really represents an enjoyable AFL match day for Aussie Rules fans. There is so much on here for families and fans with the Suns clearly going the extra mile to create lasting memories for their members and fans and I could not more highly rate the Suns fan experience as an event worth checking out.