As fingers frantically hit keyboards to purchase tickets to this Friday night’s NRL preliminary final, one group of fans is hoping their computer system doesn’t go into meltdown ahead of the do-or-die surge to make this year’s grand final.
The Canberra Raiders’ supporters’ forum, known as The Greenhouse, is busier than the turnstile at Canberra Stadium ahead of the game against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Traffic on the website is at an all-time high as fans discuss topics from this week’s big game to the Raiders’ last premiership win against the Bulldogs 25 years ago.
One of a handful of administrators, Steve French, told Region Media the hot topic at the moment is, of course, ticket sales, with the members’ allocation selling out and more than 20,000 tickets sold on Monday.
Raiders’ members were posting their online purchase code to others. Some fans are travelling from as far as Queensland just to be at the game on Friday night.
As of Tuesday morning, general public tickets also sold out within minutes of going on sale at 10 am.
“All the talk now is about tickets. People are pretty desperate to get tickets and they’re selling very fast,” Steve said.
“Souths have a lot of members and they get equal access with the Raiders’ fans, so whoever gets in first is best dressed.
“But the bottom line is that we’re going to take over the stadium on Friday. We don’t actually have tickets in one specific area together. We’re just going to be everywhere.”
Steve said the website has received a significant jump in interest lately.
“We get about 25,000 unique readers every month and about one million page views a month,” he said.
“Even though the majority of our followers are on Facebook, the site still gets a huge readership as people who come on to see what’s happening.”
The Greenhouse started in 2005 when a fan from Sydney, Nick Townsend, started a website to have something separate from the rugby league forums. Another fan from New Zealand became co-founders and the site soon had followers from Sydney, Brisbane and New Zealand who joined the Raiders’ growing database of fans.
Since then, the site has expanded into the world of social media where more than 50,000 followers keep their fingers on the keyboards and the pulse of the Green Machine.
Steve said there have also been the usual ‘bandwagon jumpers’, with more than 1000 new followers in the past month.
Each day, Steve and The Greenhouse team produce forums that include previews, hot topics and reviews of each game.
After each home game, The Greenhouse team do a live stream, which has seen the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove drop by on the way out of the stadium, as well as Raiders’ board member Katrina Fanning and former player Steve Jackson.
“Every week, there’s always lots of talk about what changes we should make. As soon as one game is over, it’s straight on to the next one,” Steve says.
“Our fans are pretty astute.” So much so that when the Raiders announced their top players at last week’s player of the year awards night, the Greenhouse fans player poll mirrored the actual results.
“Josh Papalii won his third fans’ choice award, just beating Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad in the final round.
“It was pretty remarkable that the top four players in the Meninga Medal were the top four players voted on by our fans.”
Steve says if the Raiders make their first grand final in 25 years, he is expecting the city to go into meltdown but is hoping the server that hosts The Greenhouse website can handle the extra traffic.
“It’s a huge week. I don’t know how I’m going to last until Friday, let alone the grand final,” he said.
“If both sides play to their full potential, I think the Raiders can win.
“They’ve worked hard for it and they deserve to be there. The city deserves it, our fans deserve it and the club deserves it.”
As Raiders’ fans prepare their lime green armour of hair, fingernails, beards and bodysuits for this Friday, Steve recalls the Raiders’ glory days and seeing the team’s first-ever victory against the Newtown Jets in 1982, the year the Raiders also won their only wooden spoon.
“It’s been a great journey for the club. It’s been 30 years since the first grand final win and 25 years of waiting since the last grand final in 1994,” says Steve.
“I remember what it was like in 1989. The city was in meltdown then and I think it will happen again if they can repeat it.”
Steve also has his fingers crossed that the website’s server can handle it too.