Wakefield Wildcats: Elston thanks ‘superb’ fans after bumper Leeds Rhinos gate

PACKED IN: Wildcats hosted their second-biggest Super League crowd against Leeds Rhinos on Friday.
PACKED IN: Wildcats hosted their second-biggest Super League crowd against Leeds Rhinos on Friday.

Chief executive James Elston has poured praise on the “superb” support from Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ loyal fans following Friday’s Super League thriller against Leeds Rhinos.

Wildcats suffered an agonising 31-24 defeat against the champions, but off the field the club hosted its second biggest crowd ever during its time competing in Super League.

Buoyed by a large following of Rhinos fans, the attendance of 10,031 falls second only to the relegation derby decider against Castleford Tigers in 2006, in which a capacity crowd of 11,000 saw Wildcats complete the great escape.

Friday’s attendance was also only Wakefield’s second five-figure crowd since 1982 and followed hot-on-the-heels of over 18,000 fans watching the reverse clash at Headingley Carnegie just seven days earlier - Rhinos’ biggest crowd of the season so far.

Wakefield implemented segregation following crowd trouble in their previous match against Widnes Vikings, in which five people were handed bans, but the game against Leeds passed off peacefully and Elston says it was a great advert for the game.

“I thought the game itself was a great advert for the competition and the on field rivalry between ourselves and Leeds has grown even stronger over the last couple of years and I think that’s been reflected in the attendances we’ve seen over the last fortnight,” he said.

“Segregating supporters is something that the vast majority of clubs in Super League operate with designated areas for travelling fans and it was great to see the whole stadium packed out with both sets of fans who created an incredible atmosphere.

“The support from the Wakefield fans was superb and the atmosphere generated in the Fleetmaster North Stand just gets better and better. The players appreciate it and it does help them push themselves that little bit further.”

Wakefield have enjoyed plenty of bumper crowds this season. Their opening home game against Hull KR welcomed a crowd of 9,237, while home games against Huddersfield Giants, Wigan Warriors and notably London Broncos have all attracted gates of 8,000-plus.

And with games against play-off rivals Bradford Bulls and St Helens, as well as a derby clash with Castleford Tigers to bring the regular season to a close, Wakefield could be looking at a record-breaking season in terms of average attendances.

The Bulls are up next on Sunday (kick-off 3pm) and Elston is calling on another bumper crowd to help steer Wildcats to victory. Bradford trail Wildcats by a point and victory for Richard Agar’s men could see them move into top-eight if Hull FC suffer a home defeat against Widnes Vikings.

He said: “Sunday is another key game in the race to make the play-offs and it will be great to see the people of Wakefield here again showing their support.”