Raiders left out of Nine's coverage
Images like this one, with Sandor Earl celebrating a Raiders try in the 2012 NRL finals series, will be hard to find on television in 2013 if you're a Raiders fan. The Raiders are expected to only receive one free to air match in the first 20 rounds of the competition. Photo: Melissa Adams
Former Canberra Raiders captain Simon Woolford has called on the ARL Commission to end the club's "ridiculous" exile from free-to-air television coverage.
In a familiar and unwanted trend, the Raiders are set to remain on the Channel Nine blacklist for the next season despite the NRL landing a $1 billion television-rights deal.
Reports emerged yesterday of the draft draw for the first 20 rounds of next year, in which the Raiders are expected to have just one match broadcast on free-to-air.
If the draw is approved, it will continue an unwanted trend of the Raiders being snubbed from the high-rating timeslots and coverage.
Just four of the Green Machine's games were televised on Channel Nine in the past two regular seasons and teams that finished well below the Raiders on the ladder are set to get more coverage next year.
The Raiders lit up the competition with a charge to the finals this season and finished sixth on the ladder before playing a home final.
They had hoped the independent commission would change their free-to-air fortunes when it took over rugby league operations earlier this year.
"People thought a lot of things would happen for the better when the independent commission was formed, but it seems it's just continued stalling," Woolford said.
"It's ridiculous if the boys only get one free-to-air game in 20 rounds.
"I know it's all about ratings and money, but I think our boys showed the type of footy they're capable of playing and it would be nice to get more appearances [on Channel Nine]."
Channel Nine opts against showing live Raiders games to gain higher ratings in Brisbane and Sydney.
After being shunned from the traditional Friday night and Sunday afternoon timeslots, the Raiders had proposed to host a Thursday night fixture in round three.
However, it is unclear whether their wish will be granted, after reports suggested the NRL was planning a grand-final rematch between the Melbourne Storm and Canterbury Bulldogs in round three.
The Roosters and Rabbitohs will open the season on a Thursday night, while the Eels and Bulldogs will play in the new timeslot in round two.
The Raiders will return to pre-season training in the coming weeks. It's believed assistant coach Justin Morgan is unlikely to return to his role, while playmaker Terry Campese and Brett White, who both had knee reconstructions, will start training today.
Raiders prop White wanted a "fair system" for free-to-air coverage to help Canberra gain greater exposure.
"It's surprising, I realise [Channel Nine] wants the two best teams on free-to-air, but how did you pick who the best teams are this far out?" White said.
"I know the AFL share their television coverage around, you'd expect everyone to have at least two free-to-air games.
"The competition is so even ... I think we did play well at the end of the year, so I expected it would have been a fair system with everyone almost equal."
Raiders chairman John McIntyre said he had not seen the draft draw, but remained hopeful the commission would end Canberra's struggles to break into Channel Nine's programming.
"I was hoping, with the commission coming in, that the city-centric decision-making would disappear," McIntyre said.
"But we don't know what's happening yet; we'll wait to see when the draw comes out."
Woolford feared little could be done to change the schedule.
"Even the Melbourne Storm don't get their fair share of games," Woolford said.
"It's out of the Raiders' control now, they could come out and win 10 games straight and even then they're not going to get free-to-air games because they're [the NRL] locked in for the first 20 games.
"It's unfortunate ... when I was playing it was something we looked forward to and it was like a reward getting a free-to-air game. It's disappointing not to get them."