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NRL draw's release quickly turns farcical

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The NRL's attempt to turn the release of the draw for the final six rounds into an event ended in embarrassment after the announcement was deferred due to a wrangle between the game's broadcasters over matches involving Wests Tigers and Manly.

Despite the official Twitter accounts of the NRL and clubs promoting the unveiling of the remaining schedule of matches at 11am, the draw still had not been finalised on Thursday night. The reason for the delay centres around the Tigers and Sea Eagles being given just four-day turnarounds between their round 23 and 24 matches; NRL policy states that all teams must have a minimum five-day break after each game.

A draft copy of the draw sent to clubs had Manly scheduled to play Gold Coast on Sunday, August 17, and Parramatta on Thursday, August 21. Wests Tigers were drawn to play Sydney Roosters on Monday, August 18, and Canterbury on Friday, August 22. After being made aware of the issue by Tigers and Sea Eagles officials, the NRL advised clubs at about 10.45am that the release of the draw would be delayed and it was eventually deferred until Friday.

An NRL spokesman said the announcement had been delayed to ensure a five-day turnaround between games to protect players in the game.

''The schedule for the final six rounds of the Telstra Premiership has been finalised and will be released tomorrow,'' a statement said on Thursday night. ''This has now been satisfied and the schedule for rounds 21 to 26 will be released tomorrow.''

At the heart of the problem is the way the broadcasters choose the matches, Channel Nine getting the first, second and fourth picks and Fox Sports having the third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. Under the previous television agreement, the NRL would devise a draw based on the requests of clubs but leave just the kick-off times to be determined by the broadcasters. The current $1 billion deal gives Nine and Fox Sports almost total say.

Nine initially wanted the round-23 match between Parramatta and Canterbury at ANZ Stadium to be played on Thursday, August 14, but Eels officials complained that their team would have only three days to prepare as they were playing in Darwin the previous Saturday and then hosting an NRL fan day before returning to Sydney.

As a result, the Eels-Bulldogs match will now be played on Friday, August 15, after Nine agreed to swap it with the South Sydney-Brisbane game.

However, Fox Sports then chose the Tigers-Roosters game, which is also scheduled to be played at ANZ Stadium but cannot be played there on Saturday, August 16, due to the Bledisloe Cup rugby union Test between Australia and New Zealand. As a result, Fox Sports opted for the Tigers-Roosters game to be played on the Monday night, which caused a knock-on effect for the following weekend's matches as Nine had chosen Tigers-Bulldogs as their Friday night match.

Fairfax Media understands the Gold Coast-Manly match had initially been scheduled for Saturday, August 16, but was chosen as Nine's Sunday game after Fox Sports used their third pick to claim the Tigers-Roosters clash.

It is believed Tigers officials won't announce a venue for the match against the Roosters after Fox Sports decided to schedule it on the Saturday and they will seek compensation after forgoing the financial incentives for playing at ANZ Stadium. The Tigers have an agreement to play four games a year at Campbelltown and Leichhardt.

''First and foremost the four-day turnaround is just not fair and reasonable so I have no doubt it is causing some grief but then you add the complexity of venue availability and other sporting schedules, and I am sure they are facing some very difficult decisions,'' Wests Tigers chief executive Grant Mayer said. ''From our point of view, we are more than happy to be advised by the game about what needs to be done as long as the club and our stakeholders are not disadvantaged.''

Twitter - @BradWalterSMH

30 comments

  • $1billion deal, for what?

    Commenter
    oz
    Location
    upyaville
    Date and time
    July 04, 2014, 3:38AM
    • Is this just scheduling or do they create a new draw for the last six matches.? Doesn't the draw come out before the season starts otherwise there can be the allegation of match fixing.

      Commenter
      kellybellyfonte
      Date and time
      July 04, 2014, 10:18AM
    • kbf, the "draw" is about scheduling. Which games are played when over the weekend, not who is playing who.

      Commenter
      Mutt Sanders' brother
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 04, 2014, 10:42AM
  • While we're on the subject of bringing the game's image into disrepute....

    Commenter
    mutt
    Location
    no d-ckheads policy hey?
    Date and time
    July 04, 2014, 5:56AM
    • Just goes to show that Rugby League clubs have no control over THEIR game !

      Commenter
      Ex Follower
      Location
      Far Away
      Date and time
      July 04, 2014, 6:03AM
      • Just another NRL farce - clearly the NRL only cares about TV ratings. Thursday nights are only for TV - good luck getting people to the game. Not only does it rule out families, battling Sydney traffic to get to a ground at peak hour is a joke. And then with a kickoff closer to 8, plus work and school the next day, I simply won't go. The four day turnaround problem doesn't exist if you don't have Thursday or Monday night footy - the fans don't want it, the players don't want it, the only people who want it are the TV execs. Remember NRL - yes the TV stations give you plenty of money, but fans actually going to the game is more important for your bottom line..........

        Commenter
        Saz
        Date and time
        July 04, 2014, 6:45AM
        • People do not realize that when you get a big TV deal the networks run the show. The NRL have sold their soul and it will continue it's slide into oblivion. It's pretty sad to see what was once a good code being flogged off to the highest bidder with no thought as to what the supporters of the game want. Already this year both the A-League and even netball have drawn bigger crowds than NRL games in Sydney. TV stations can try to hide it with selective angles of the crowd but if no one goes it's not much to watch on the box. The other problems are the stupid micked refs, cameramen on the field, cameras in dressing sheds, video refs etc. etc. It's just becoming a dogs breakfast. Note to NRL - you can only flog off the State of Origin for so long before people get tired of the two team comp.

          Commenter
          Roary
          Date and time
          July 04, 2014, 7:24AM
          • Ony a few more months before the start of the A League.

            Commenter
            Dan
            Date and time
            July 04, 2014, 11:57AM
        • Thu night football. Great just what we need. Another example of greed winning over fairness to players, fans, sponsors.

          Commenter
          That'll do me
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          July 04, 2014, 7:25AM
          • Yep - been barking up that tree for years myself.

            No consideration to the Fans, ever. All prime time games for the fans (Sunday arvo's) are usually played in Newcastle, the Tweed or in Melbourne. The true heartland, Sydney, lives in a nocturnal world.

            Last year the Roosters had one Sunday game beyond about round 6 and it was a great family afternoon with over 20,000 against the lowly GC who had no more than support staff and close family present. Loads of kids who can't go to the plethora of night games with plenty of entertainment and gimmicks for the kids to help make it a fun day out for all the family.

            But wait, I almost forgot, we as fans are irrelevant objects and despite having 3/4 empty stadiums on cold winter's night, let's make sure the lounge rooms are full instead.

            One would suggest that the NRL's virtually non existent marketing department holds a direct conflict of interest given what they reap from the Networks. Perhaps this should be outsourced to those who don't.

            One might also suggest that clubs should be entitled to compensation for having what would be highly attended Sunday games played in front of a paltry few on a Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and especially Monday nights. That as well as the draw having a direct effect on the level of club memberships.

            One may further suggest that the ground owners, caterers and local retail businesses may also have the same gripe given the night games draw far lower crowds.

            Think about scheduling for other major competitions such as MLB, NFL, EPL and even AFL and you'll see how Saturday and Sunday daytime fixtures remain their major drawcards. Great crowds are testament to their fan first approach.

            Shame NRL - yet again

            Commenter
            Cheftain
            Date and time
            July 04, 2014, 1:21PM

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