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NRL dangles Perth carrot, but no television, no Raiders

Date

Chris Wilson

THE RAIDERS are set to stand their ground in Canberra, withdrawing interest in taking a home game to Perth next season as Channel Nine continues its blackout of the club.

The NRL has asked the Raiders to consider taking either their round-23 or round-24 home games against the Bulldogs and Sea Eagles respectively to Perth, in a one-off match that could earn the club up to $250,000.

But the Raiders are set to reject the proposal, Channel Nine indicating it is not interested in televising either match.

The NRL had previously asked the Raiders to consider taking their round-five match against the Roosters - featuring Sonny Bill Williams - to Perth.

But Canberra is not prepared to sacrifice one of its home games against a high-drawing opposition such as the Roosters, Bulldogs and Sea Eagles, especially without the incentive of having free-to-air television coverage.

The Raiders have received just one Channel Nine game in the first 20 rounds of next year's NRL draw, much to the frustration of the club, sponsors, players and fans.

The Canberra Times rang Channel Nine head of sport Steve Crawley on Saturday for an explanation, given the Raiders finished the NRL competition sixth last season.

Crawley refused to comment and hung up. He did not respond to a follow-up text.

Raiders chairman John McIntyre described Canberra's television schedule for 2013 as ''very, very disappointing'', but added ''we just have to grin and bear it''.

The NRL's annual grant to the Raiders has been bumped up from about $4 million to $7 million because of the game's new $1 billion television rights deal, funded primarily by Channel Nine. McIntyre said it was hard to be too critical.

''You've got to take the bad with the good I suppose, the bad being the lack of TV exposure, but you can't argue about the increase in the size of the grant,'' he said.

''One of the things that [grant] will lead to is probably the most important thing in the game, to maintain the sustainability of all of the clubs.''

The NRL has shelved any plans for expansion until at least 2015, which has the potential to open up new television audiences for the game.

Asked if the Raiders feared expansion and whether Channel Nine would be happy to see Canberra out of the competition, McIntyre said: ''I don't think so, I don't think that's on anyone's agenda. Obviously in terms of expansion down the track, one of the key factors will always be, particularly now with the increased money from TV rights, looking for new TV audiences. That's why a move to get a team in Western Australia would be very attractive to Channel Nine.

''We're certainly not in any [financial] need to consider any form of joint-venture arrangements. There are quite a few others in the existing 16 [teams] that are likely to find that more attractive than us.''

The Raiders have a full complement of sponsors on their uniform next season, which will be worth more than $1.7 million - the richest in the club's history.

Raiders chief executive Don Furner said the club was in a healthy position to survive further expansion of the NRL despite the free-to-air television vacuum.

''We're the only inland team, we effectively represent NSW Country and we have great juniors,'' Furner said.

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