The rare sight of rugby league on Channel 9 on Sunday afternoon was not just a tease, with the network having assured Melbourne Storm that all of its free-to-air games would be shown live locally this season.
Nine used Sunday’s grand final rematch between New Zealand Warriors and Manly as a lead-in to the first one-day cricket final, prompting local league fans to scratch their heads in confusion.
Last week’s Round 1 matches on Thursday and Friday nights were not shown in Melbourne until well after midnight.
They were played as the NRL announced two games a week would be shown live in the US, adding to live coverage as far afield as Africa.
“But you can’t watch it live in Melbourne. That doesn’t seem right to me,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy wrote in The Australian on Saturday.
It’s believed, however, Nine managing director Jeff Browne has assured Storm officials any free-to-air games, including the Round 5 Friday night home clash with Newcastle, would be shown live on digital channel Gem, with the potential for any blockbusters to be shifted to the main channel.
But that commitment does not solve the problem as far as Storm chief executive Ron Gauci is concerned.
He said there should be a promise for all NRL free-to-air games to have decent coverage in Melbourne, and for that coverage to be promoted.
With the next NRL TV rights deal being negotiated, Gauci said it was crucial the winning broadcaster had a plan to develop and promote the game in all new markets.
“There was an announcement last week that games would be shown live around the world, yet Melbourne, the most passionate sporting city, struggles to get equal access,” Gauci said.
“It’s our view that whoever is successful in securing the broadcast rights is committed to the growth of the game. Their commitment should not just be showing the game live, but also to promote it through the programming at every opportunity.
“We want the broadcasters to show as many games as possible to grow the game. The way people see the game first is on TV.”
It’s believed every network interested in securing the NRL coverage, except Nine, has presented Storm officials with a plan on how it would promote and develop the game locally.
BILLY Slater’s report for a high shot on Canberra fullback Josh Dugan in Saturday night’s game was tossed out by the NRL match review panel yesterday.
Source Herald Sun