Wests Tigers chief executive Grant Mayer insists the large crowd at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday night has reassured the club that the south west is still Tigers territory.
Mayer challenged the Campbelltown faithful to turn up in their droves after a poor crowd of 6456 attended the clash against a full strength North Queensland Cowboys in round six.
But even with Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods away on Origin duty and a host of talent on the sidelines for the match against the baby Broncos, the Tigers fans responded to the threat of losing future matches at the venue by drawing the largest crowd at the ground in three years.
The crowd of 16,511 on Saturday night was a timely reminder that the south west hadn't lost its connection with the joint venture club on the night they celebrated their 15 year anniversary. "I think the crowd have spoken haven't they?" Mayer said.
"We understand there's more work to be done but we've gone to markets that we've never gone to.
‘‘Narellan, Camden and Liverpool have all been letterbox dropped. We think our future is well and truly on that side of the M5.
‘‘Campbelltown and Minto are very important to us but the growth areas are also very important, for us and the game.
"Wests Tigers fans and supporters were challenged after that game against North Queensland earlier in the year and they've spoken. They've risen to the challenge and came out in numbers.
‘‘That's all you can ask your members and fans to do. I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.
‘‘It was portrayed differently to how I wanted it to come out but at the end of the day the challenge was made and the members responded."
Mayer said an extensive advertising and marketing campaign was a huge factor in the large increase in supporter numbers but admits the club needed to maintain their promotion to ensure the longevity of both Campbelltown and Leichhardt Oval.
"We've previously relied on people turning up, but this time around we letterbox-dropped 50,000 homes, we've been in cinema advertising, we've been in buses and taxis, throughout social media, radio stations and mainstream press," Mayer said.
"The fans have turned out and they've come to watch their team play football. It's shown that we have to work harder at both our suburban grounds. The last Leichhardt game was also disappointing so we've got to be smart about how we market to our suburban grounds.
"There are always going to be games that disappoint but that's the one thing we have to take from this. Not every game can attract 16,500 so we've got to be mindful of that. A lot of those excuses we're talking about. We understood that pricing is an issue at every football game and we got smart around that."
It was the largest crowd at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in three years, when 19,252 piled in for a clash against the Bulldogs in 2011.
Mayer didn't hide his disappointment with the crowd last time around but was delighted with the response to the challenge from the Campbelltown faithful.
"In many regards it was a gamble from the club and myself to come out and be so vocal regarding the last crowd but the club and the players and everyone were genuinely disappointed by the last attendance," Mayer said.
"Today the Wests Tigers faithful have come out and shown their true love and support for the game.
‘‘Campbelltown Stadium is unbelievable when we've got 16,500 people in it. We're over the moon. The fans have come out and they've spoken. It shows to me there's a strong future here.
"The game is well and truly alive and we'll continue to try and grow our presence in the area. I've said it for a number of months now, we've got to do more than we have been doing in the community. In regards to the future of football games, that will be a decision made on a game by game basis, but we've committed to the next three seasons beyond this at least."