For Helene Shepherd, it was the best email she had received in months.
The loyal Newcastle Knights supporter was informed early in the week that she could attend the home game on Sunday, the first since the COVID-19 restrictions came into play in March. And on Thursday came notification on her mobile phone that she could download her digital ticket.
"Game on!," Mrs Shepherd said triumphantly. "I rarely miss a home game."
Helene Shepherd usually sits with her daughter and two grand daughters in the fifth row in Bay 55. The Belmont North family paid $970 for their membership for the season.
She had missed "being able to go out and see the game live and mix with others; you get to meet different people and share a passion for the game."
Helene Shepherd will be one of about 7500 fans at the home game against the Eels. That is the capacity under COVID-19 restrictions. It is a members-only event.
"It's important we look after the supporters and partners who have stood by us through numerous challenges in 2020, and this is the first step," Knights CEO Mr Philip Gardner said on the club's website.
Those who had pledged their membership to the club after the pandemic hit were guaranteed a ticket to the game. According to the Knights, 5448 people had pledged their membership. Those who had committed to being a member in 2021 went into a ballot for the remaining seats.
Helene Shepherd had pledged her family's membership fee and committed to signing on next season. She wanted to stick by the club, because "the Knights have struggled financially for so many years".
Other Knights supporters have decided to stay away from the stadium for now.
Elaine Roberts is a founding member of the renowned fan group, the Knights Nannas.
As much as she would love to attend Sunday's match, Elaine Roberts and her fellow Nannas will do as they have been doing for most of the season and gather at one of their houses to watch the game on television.
"One of the ladies said it might be a bit soon [to attend the game]," Mrs Roberts said. "We're all elderly. I'm almost 85, you know!"
Elaine Roberts said the Knights Nannas would consider attending the next home game on July 26 against the Bulldogs.
Newcastle Knights Supporters Club members won't be out the front of the stadium either, as they normally are for home games, selling raffle tickets.
Club secretary Marilyn Edwards said the members raised up to $50,000 from raffle and trifecta ticket sales in a season to help the Knights. But as it stands, "we won't make any [money] this year".
"It's been weird not having football," she said. "You build your life around it."
On Friday, the Knights' membership team was inundated with inquiries about ticketing and seating, as people adjusted to the COVID changes. Helene Shepherd has downloaded her ticket. She has been allocated a seat only two rows back from where she usually sits. While showers are forecast, the Knights fan is not thinking about clouds, just the prospect of a victory over the Eels.
"I'll go, rain, hail or shine," she said. "It would have to be a tornado for me not to go."
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