The match between the Eagles and Dockers two years ago attracted 10,373 spectators, which fell by more than half to 5021 when West Coast faced the Suns earlier this month.
While a derby, albeit a pre-season one, would be expected to draw a bigger crowd, AFL officials considered other factors that could have influenced the attendance.
An AFL spokeswoman cited the fact there were more games played in WA in 2016 as another contributing element.
“In 2014 each club only played two matches (opposed to three in 2016) as 18 games in 18 days were scheduled,” she said.
“So the Joondalup match was the only opportunity for local fans to see their club play before the premiership season.”
This year’s campaign wrapped up over the weekend with West Coast and Fremantle playing at Subiaco Oval in their second and third WA-based matches respectively.
A WA Football Commission spokesman said the commission considered the return to Arena Joondalup a success.
“For a Thursday twilight match, the WAFC was impressed with the attendance at the game, with over 5000 people demonstrating the popularity of these events at community venues,” he said.
While Arena Joondalup’s 2014 crowd was amongst the biggest in the nation for a non-AFL venue, this month’s attendance was middle of the pack.
Seven of the 14 non-AFL grounds bettered Joondalup’s total including Fremantle’s clash with Richmond in Mandurah (about 7500) and the Eagles’ game against the Crows (about 8000) in Adelaide suburb Unley. But it’s important to note these were Friday night or weekend matches in comparison to Joondalup’s week-night fixture.
Most impressive of the non-AFL venues was the Carlton-Essendon match at the Blues’ former home ground Princes Park.
A sizeable 18,718 fans filed in to watch Brendon Bolton’s men, the club having not faced archrival Essendon at the location in nearly 24 years.
Pre-season crowds at non-AFL venues
Carl v Ess, Princes Park (Melb) 18,718
Adel v WCE, Unley Oval (Adel) 8000
Fre v Rich, Rushton Park (Mandurah, WA) 7500
Rich v Haw, Holm Park Recreation Reserve (Melb) 6384
St K v Nth Melb, Norm Minns Oval (Wangaratta, Vic) 6216
Nth Melb v Coll, Robertson Oval (Wagga Wagga, Vic) 6000
Ess v Geel, Deakin Reserve (Shepparton, Vic) 5488
WCE v GC, Arena Joondalup (Perth) 5021
Pt Adel v Melb, Elizabeth Oval (Adel) 4981
Fre v Adel, Sounness Park (Mt Barker, WA) 4767
Syd v GWS, Drummoyne Oval (Syd) 4754
WB v Melb, Highgate Recreation Reserve (Melb) 4139
Bris v GC, Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex (Bris) 3807
Syd v Pt Adel, Blacktown International Sportspark (Syd) 3172