The NRL released the draw for the final six rounds of the season, and all it did was essentially delay the inevitable. The inevitable meaning plenty of all Sydney clashes, but we are used to that, and we even kindly pointed out the preference of all Sydney games in Sydney every Sunday in our Guide to Sunday Football. No wonder Gus loves his Sunday football.
Yes it’s easy to highlight Channel Nein’s failures all the time and harp on about it, but they do tend to make it easy to find fault. And yes we have Fox Sports but that has been a recent and most welcome addition andhave become a Fox Sports NRL snob as a result. So since we have the best coverage why should we care? Well, we still feel for the League fans who don’t and will continue to highlight Channel Nein’s selfish running of the game.
Yes Channel Nein paid a large sum of money to obtain the TV rights, so of course there are commercial obligations and ratings for Channel 9 to think about, we aren’t stupid, but should that be the first priority and first concern. Yes, the Sydney market is important, but should a 11th v 15th or 13th v 16th take centre stage over clashes that are likely to affect the finals outcomes, or even entertain league fans instead of watching two struggling teams battle for the better position in the bottom half of the table.
Whilst league position shouldn’t always be the main factor, premium clashes based on rivalries are usually good viewing, but heading into the finals it should take some precedence over an ordinary clash between two team in the bottom 4 that have no great rivalry like Souths and Newcastle?
The reason for leaving the last 6 rounds was so that the best choices could be made heading into the finals, and looking through the selections of the games, it has the same familiar bias and choices as the previous 20 weeks selections. For instance Gus loves his Sunday Football because 13 of the 20 games on the Sunday are in Sydney between 2 Sydney teams, and that bias towards Sydney teams rather than ladder position continues. Although the game in New Zealand in the final Round on a Sunday is quite the surprise. But it’s not just a Sydney bitch (they do supply 9 of the 16 teams), but six of the bottom 8 heading into Round 16 were from Sydney, and realistically only three of those are a decent chance of challenging for finals football. So to load up on Sydney clashes only makes commercial sense, and there should be more if the NRL wants to grow outside the two states.
ANALYSIS OF THE LAST 6 ROUNDS
Average League Position of the teams – 8.8
Top 8 Sides / Bottom 8 Sides – 18 / 18
Top 4 Sides / All Teams – 10 / 36
Bottom 4 Sides / All Teams – 11 / 36
Sydney Team 24 / 36
All Sydney Games – 7 / 18
Three sides don’t feature in the last six rounds Gold Coast, Canberra, and unbelievably the Sharks, who are on top of the ladder no less. How on earth can a team that lead the competition and are highly likely to finish top 4 not given one single game, whilst teams in the bottom 4 feature 11 times.
A lost opportunity too is two of the prospective top 8 sides, both of whom are on excellent run of form, and arguably play some of the better rugby league at the moment in Gold Coast and Canberra. Their potential progress to the finals will be for Fox Sports fans exclusively.
FULL LIST OF TEAMS
NOTES FROM ANALYSIS:
Positions are as per pre kick off of Round 16 and we used current ladder position for Parramatta to save another calculation.
Want more proof of the bias. The NRL website released an article on the Top 10 clashes in the final six rounds. How many of those important games on Free to Air? One. OK, lists can be subjective, but after some of the stats above it shows that the NRL has lost a great opportunity to get people in the mood for finals in the last few weeks of the competition.
The main issue with all of the above, and Channel Nein’s selection of games in general, is that they tell us what they think we should watch, telling us about audience preference based on TV ratings, instead of putting faith in the NRL product and just featuring the best league on offer every week.
Hopefully the NRL can get more of a say next year. If they want to really live up to the N in their NRL, then the Sydney-centric focus has to shift.
THE CHANNEL NEIN GAMES FROM ROUND 21 to ROUND 26