Three MCG blockbusters should help the AFL set a new record for single-round attendance when the new season begins this weekend.
Canny fixturing and high hopes among AFL fans of many teams for the season ahead are set to underpin a new benchmark for crowds across a single round.
On Monday, the MCC published its crowd estimations for the back-to-back-to-back clashes.
The traditional Thursday night season opener between Carlton and Richmond has been pegged for a crowd of 70,000.
The Western Bulldogs return to the MCG for the first time since their grand final triumph on Friday night against Collingwood, with 65,000 expected.
The biggest match of the weekend is a full-strength Essendon taking on heated rivals Hawthorn on Saturday night, for which stadium management predict at least 80,000 in the stands.
Helping attendance along, the Friday and Saturday matches are member replacement games for Bulldogs and Hawks fans.
By Sunday evening, when a near sold-out Domain Stadium hosts Fremantle against Geelong, more than 400,000 people could have attended an AFL match over the weekend.
That should smash the current record of 371,212 people set across round 15 in 2013, when two MCG matches – Carlton against Collingwood and Hawthorn versus Geelong – both attracted huge crowds.
An MCC spokesperson said groundstaff had been working to have the MCG in “pristine condition” for Thursday’s opening bounce.
“Within a mere 48-hour period we are expecting upwards of 230,000 people to pass through the gates, providing a great start to the 2017 season,” she said.
“Given the large crowds forecast we are strongly urging fans to plan their journey, arrive early and where possible use public transport to ensure they don’t miss a minute of the action.”
The record tilt will also depend on near capacity crowds in Adelaide and Sydney, and strong showings at two Etihad Stadium fixtures.
St Kilda v Melbourne hasn’t set turnstiles spinning in recent years, but fans of both sides hopeful of break-through seasons could push the attendance well above 30,000 at the Docklands venue, while North Melbourne against West Coast should draw at least 25,000.
The low watermark will come at Metricon Stadium for the Q-Clash between Gold Coast and Brisbane, which averages less than 15,000.
PREDICTING THE BIGGEST AFL ROUND OF ALL-TIME
Carlton v Richmond – MCG – 70,000
Collingwood v Western Bulldogs – MCG – 65,000
Sydney v Port Adelaide – SCG – 33,000
St Kilda v Melbourne – Etihad – 35,000
Gold Coast v Brisbane – Metricon – 15,000
Essendon v Hawthorn – MCG – 80,000
North Melbourne v West Coast – Etihad – 27,000
Adelaide v GWS Giants – Adelaide Oval – 42,000
Fremantle v Geelong – Domain Stadium – 34,000
PREVIOUS RECORD: 371, 212 set during round 15, 2013.
* Non-MCG crowd estimates sourced using a combination of club and ground estimates, average attendance and previous fixture attendance.