The battle for next year's NRL radio rights is akin to the game itself: a clash of super-sized egos, with many detours and dummies, ruled by uncertain officials, with the result not certain until the final whistle.
The price of the rights will be less than $2 million, a mere 1/500th of the TV rights agreed in August but the bargaining has been far more protracted and confusing, typical of an industry replete with ''fellows of infinite tongue'', as Shakespeare put it in Henry V.
An overworked NRL administration, ruled by an interim chief executive, has exacerbated the process.
John Singleton's Macquarie network is expected to retain the rights in conjunction with Triple M, although they have been called ''preferred tenderers'', rather than outright winners.
The ''non-preferred'' bidder is a consortium of 2SM and Fairfax Radio, which owns 2UE, together with leading Brisbane and Melbourne stations, 4BC and 3AW respectively.
The good news is that rights value and games coverage has doubled from last season's payment of less than $1 million for a broadcast of four games a week.
Although contracts have not been signed for the upcoming season, it is expected Macquarie Radio and its flagship station, 2GB, will broadcast four games while Austereo's Triple M will call the other four.
The ABC will broadcast seven games into NSW and Queensland, with a commitment to coverage in Melbourne and regional Victoria. The bad news is that some rural listeners may miss out on the commercial call.
Bill Caralis's 2SM has an extensive country network; rugby league followers in the country who cannot afford Foxtel complain, ''can't see, can't hear''. However, it's expected Macquarie/Austereo will try to on-sell their call to Caralis stations in regions where they don't have a presence.
Sydney ratings proved to be the critical factor in the NRL's choice, with 2GB enjoying a 14.5 per cent audience share, compared with 2UE's 4.5 per cent and 2SM's asterisk. The NRL also sought a rock'n'roll audience with its selection of Triple M. A source close to the negotiations said that ''2GB is popular with the older demographic and Austereo is popular with the rock'n'roll generation''. Rather than allow the 2GB/Triple M consortium to make alternate picks of the eight games they will collectively cover, the NRL will allocate the calls.
Presumably, if the NRL thinks your club is popular with Generation Y, you will be hearing Andrew Johns and Peter Sterling on Triple M. If it's a club the NRL categorise as one followed by residents of a retirement village, it will be Ray Hadley, although his Continuous Call is No.1 with men, including the young.
Scheduling should represent an interesting challenge, according to Facebook and Twitter figures, with the Storm and Broncos far more popular in terms of social interaction than the Raiders and Sharks.
However, more important than the games themselves is the season-long timeslots. The NRL is yet to determine which Friday night game 2GB covers, together with the weekend schedule, although it seems certain Austereo will continue to broadcast the Monday night game.
The networks insist this must be resolved before the season start.
At one point during the serpentine negotiations for the radio broadcasting rights, Austereo made a back-door approach to 2SM to form a partnership but Caralis refused to dump Fairfax, publisher of this newspaper.
The negotiations are mired in ancient enmities, symbolic of rugby league's feuding universe.
Singleton succeeded Caralis as president of Newtown 30 years ago and the two could not be described as friends. However, Singo delegated all negotiations to Russell Tate, executive chairman of the Macquarie Network.
Hadley and Graeme Hughes, who is Caralis's chief rugby league correspondent, like each other about as much as they do gout. And there have also been times when Sterling and Hadley haven't wanted to be on the same stage, let alone belong in the same sentence. Now they are partners, albeit ''non-preferred'' ones.
A weekend rugby league show, jointly produced by 2SM and 2UE, is a possibility. They may call games off the TV screen, as Hadley once did when he worked for 2UE and 2GB held the rights.
Ultimately, it's difficult to see how NRL radio rights represent value, with the ratings of Hadley's popular Continuous Call dipping significantly when a game begins, demonstrating that the pre-match ''gibber'' is more popular than the game itself.
Stay tuned, whether it be on gibber or Twitter.
Roy Masters is a Sports Columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter