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AFL Preliminary Finals: Richmond v Collingwood, West Coast v Melbourne will come close to attendance record

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GET set for what could be the biggest preliminary final weekend in VFL/AFL history.

Collingwood’s win over GWS on Saturday night locked in what we can fairly say is Gillon McLachlan’s dream set of fixtures, from a financial point of view.

Friday night, Collingwood v Richmond at the MCG. Two of the biggest teams, at the biggest ground, meeting in September for the first time in 38 years.

Saturday afternoon, West Coast v Melbourne at Optus Stadium. The shiny new venue, with the massive Eagles fanbase (and the travel dollars that would come with their Grand Final participation) against the fairytale Demons story.

Not only are the storylines perfect, but it feels refreshing as well. That’s because for the first time since 2002, none of Geelong, Hawthorn or Sydney are involved in the prelims.

There will be massive crowds on both sides of the country, and the vibe in Melbourne will be simply immense.

However it will be tough for these matches to set attendance records – although they’ll try.

The record for a preliminary final weekend currently goes to 2009, when 87,258 watched Geelong defeat Collingwood and 78,245 saw St Kilda down the Western Bulldogs, with both matches played at the MCG. That’s a total of 165,503.

Optus Stadium allowed in 59,585 fans for West Coast’s qualifying final against the Magpies; assuming a similar number, the MCG would need to fit in almost 106,000 attendees on Friday night to beat the record.

That’s not to say that many wouldn’t head there if they could. Given the teams involved in both prelims, it’s easy to imagine the crowd numbers being astronomical if permitted.

“When these two teams last met in a big final — the 1980 Grand Final which was attended by 113,461 fans — the teams probably had 5000 members,” Mark Robinson wrote for the Herald Sun on Saturday night.

“Today, it’s 100,000 for Richmond and 80,000 for Collingwood. If the ‘G was big enough, they’d get 150,000 on Friday night.”

Unfortunately not even North Korea’s May Day Stadium, the world’s biggest at a permanent capacity of 114,000, could hold that many fans.

There is a real chance Richmond v Collingwood will set the modern-day preliminary final attendance record, with Geelong v Collingwood in 2007 packing in a crowd of 98,002.

The actual preliminary final attendance record belongs to Carlton v St Kilda in 1970, when 108,215 fans saw the Blues get over the line.

That year saw all four finals feature a crowd of over 104,000 people, peaking with the all-time VFL/AFL attendance record of 121,696 for Carlton’s Grand Final win over Collingwood.

The Tigers and Magpies should on Friday night surpass the attendance for their 1973 Preliminary Final of 98,652.

All of this, though, means one thing.

Ticketek had better have its act together.

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