Channel Nine, the self-proclaimed “home of rugby league” may finally start delivering with the new TV deal.
The four-year deal, beginning in 2018 and worth up to $925 million, will see four matches live on Nine.
This includes Thursday Night Football, Friday Night Football (no more double headers), Saturday Night Football (usually only reserved for the finals series) and Sunday Afternoon Football. Many fans have been frustrated by Nine’s sub-standard, at times blatantly biased coverage (with popular teams hogging the prime Friday games), so this is a welcome change.
There will also be a change in representative football. The second Origin game will be played on Sunday night as a stand-alone Rep Round with Pacific Nations Tests, while international games will be played after the season.
The premiership will be reduced to 25 rounds instead of 26, with one split round.
At last the NRL are doing something about the dreaded ‘Origin period” which punishes Origin-heavy teams and devalues the competition.
No doubt Nine will be crowing about their new “commitment” to the NRL, but at least they’re putting in the effort to give the fans what they want: live footy. Hopefully the new schedule will give every club regular free-to-air coverage. We may even see the Canberra Raiders play on Friday nights more than once a year.