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Star prop's fear over blackout

Date

Jon Tuxworth

CANBERRA prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs fears the Raiders could lose the battle for the hearts and minds of young fans if the club's free-to-air blackout continues.

The Raiders are fuming after it emerged on Friday just one of their games will be broadcast on Channel Nine over the first 20 rounds of next season. Learoyd-Lahrs agreed when asked if it could prove an ''out of sight, out of mind'' situation for young fans who want to emulate their heroes on TV.

''The local kids get to see us around town and come to the games but the [fans] in the outlying areas, it definitely does [hurt],'' Learoyd-Lahrs said on Saturday.

''It hurts the supporter base I suppose because the young fans coming through are looking for a team, and the teams that get splashed across the TV all the time are going to be the ones in the forefront of their minds. As a kid growing up, the game you wanted to watch was Friday night football.

''I remember leaving school on a Friday arvo and being excited because the footy was on.

''It definitely doesn't help your cause and makes it a lot harder.''

Learoyd-Lahrs said the players were frustrated their outstanding finish to last season hadn't been rewarded by increased free-to-air exposure.

''It has in fact gone backwards, given the Raiders were allocated two Friday night Channel Nine games in 2012.

''You'd think winning those games last year would give us more consideration, but it didn't seem to matter,'' Learoyd-Lahrs said.

''They talk about the evenness of the competition and how close the teams are to one another now, but there's still a huge divide in terms of Friday night games.

''I think the NRL should be more proactive in laying down their demands and try to even the ledger a bit, try and give a few of the other sides a few more free-to-air games. I don't understand how one team can manage to get 12 and another team only get one, I can't understand how there can be such a big difference there.''

The 27-year-old believes the lack of exposure means the club's impressive crop of youngsters, led by Josh Dugan, Jarrod Croker, Sandor Earl and Blake Ferguson, don't get the credit they deserve.

He said it could have the domino effect of making their goal of breaking into representative football tougher.

''A lot of our players, and in particular our young players, will be getting a lot less exposure,'' Learoyd-Lahrs said.

''These guys don't get the reputation they probably deserve because of the timeslots they're playing at.

''It's got to have a bearing [on representative footy]. It's hard to get recognition for the young guy coming through and it definitely has to hurt their chances.

''Everything is linked to exposure. Everyone's begging to put their name on the Broncos jersey because they know they're going to get plenty of exposure, and they're going to get splashed across the screen all the time.''

Fellow Raiders prop Brett White said the players always relished the chance to play on Channel Nine, as evidenced by their 36-6 thrashing of eventual premiers Canterbury in a Friday night game late last year.

''We've certainly got some brilliant attacking players, and you'd think they're the teams people would rather watch,'' White said.

''I understand the audience, there's different amounts of viewers that follow more popular sides, but I just can't understand why they wouldn't make it more evenly spread.

''We finished so well last year and made the top eight, it's disappointing the Raiders fans don't get rewarded for that.''

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