The Canberra Raiders have been shunned from the marquee Thursday night and Friday night timeslots despite being NRL premiership favourites and grand finalists of 2019.
The NRL published its draw on Thursday, with the Raiders to play the Melbourne Storm twice within the first two months of the restarted competition and face the Knights, Tigers, Manly, Parramatta and Dragons as well before they can even consider playing matches in Canberra
But the Raiders are notably absent from the big-ticket timeslots on Thursday, Friday and Sundays in an all-to-familiar decision by broadcasters who value teams in Sydney and Brisbane.
The Raiders will play just three free-to-air games this year. The Brisbane Broncos will play 15 of their 20 games on Channel Nine.
The Raiders and their fans are used to being spurned by the main broadcaster. It was hoped the NRL taking control of the draw and the run to the grand final last year would change the attitude of Channel Nine bosses.
The Raiders were initially to play eight games on Channel Nine this year, with chief executive Don Furner expecting the extra exposure to give the club's bottom line a major boost.
"Without a doubt it does. All those things will come. Keep healthy and keep winning, and staying on Channel Nine," Furner told The Canberra Times in October.
"If you don't rate on Channel Nine we won't be on there in 2021. But it's still better to be on there than not. There were some years we got none, [with an] average of two or three.
"So it's fantastic we got this many. Certainly early in the season we've got quite a few. Moving forward we'll get that reward commercially because quite literally your sponsorship strip is worth more. Down the track we'll capitalise on that."
That was before coronavirus. Now the Raiders have had their eight reduced to three in the draw overhaul even after bookmakers installed Canberra as title favourites for their quest to end a premiership drought.
The free-to-air games will be against the Sydney Roosters, the Newcastle Knights and Manly.
The Green Machine will also have to negotiate having to play on the Gold Coast and in Townsville potentially without three of their stars after the Queensland Government said any players refusing the flu shot were banned from playing in the state.
The Raiders will face the Brisbane Broncos in a "home" fixture in round 14, which will be played at either Campbelltown or Canberra.
But they play the Titans and the Cowboys on the road, which will lead to tense conversations about whether Sia Soliola, Josh Papalii and Joe Tapine can make the trip.
The three Raiders signed an amended waiver to continue training after refusing the flu shot. But the Queensland Government has taken a strong stance against those opposing the flu vaccination and banned Titans players from training or playing until they were immunised.
The three Raiders could follow the same path as Bryce Cartwright by applying for a medical exemption. Cartwright's application was cleared and he was allowed to return to training last week.
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The Raiders will play the Sydney Roosters twice, giving them two shots at grand final redemption. They will also play the Storm, Dragons, Warriors and Titans twice in the 20-round competition.
The first grand final re-match will be on a Thursday night, but the bulk of Canberra's remaining games will be played on a Saturday and Sunday.
The Raiders won't play any games in Canberra in the first seven games of the season, which will start next week. They will play home games at Campbelltown to fit the NRL's coronavirus guidelines.
Fans won't be able to attend matches in the short-term, but there is hope crowds will be allowed back at some point this year if social-distancing restrictions are eased.
The Raiders could return to Canberra Stadium from round 11 if the NRL allows other venues to host matches. Only six venues will be used between rounds 3-9, but Canberra and the New Zealand Warriors are the only teams which have to travel more than an hour to get to their new "home" venues.
Round 3: Storm v Raiders at Melbourne on Saturday, May 30, at 7.35pm
Round 4: Raiders v Knights at Campbelltown on Sunday, June 7, at 4.05pm
Round 5: Tigers v Raiders at Campbelltown on Saturday, June 13, at 7.35pm
Round 6: Raiders v Sea Eagles at Campbelltown on Sunday, June 21, at 4.05pm
Round 7: Eels v Raiders at Parramatta on Saturday, June 27, at 5.30pm
Round 8: Raiders v Dragons at Campbelltown on Friday, July 3, at 6pm
Round 9: Raiders v Storm at Campbelltown on Saturday, July 11, at 5.30pm
Round 10: Roosters v Raiders on Thursday, July 16, 7.50pm
Round 11: Raiders v Rabbitohs on Saturday, July 25, at 5.30pm
Round 12: Cowboys v Raiders on Saturday, August 1, at 7.35pm
Round 13: Panthers v Raiders on Saturday, August 8, at 7.35pm
Round 14: Raiders v Broncos on Saturday, August 15, at 7.35pm
Round 15: Titans v Raiders on Saturday, August 22, 3pm
Round 16: Raiders v Bulldogs on Sunday, August 30, 6.30pm
Round 17: Raiders v Roosters on Saturday, September 5, 7.35pm
Round 18: Dragons v Raiders on Saturday, September 12, 3pm
Round 19: Raiders v Warriors on Sunday, September 20, 2pm
Round 20: Sharks v Raiders on Saturday, September 26, 5.30pm