Carting it up with Stevo

Sunday too far away

I woke up on Sunday with one of the biggest hangovers of all time, and not a drop of alcohol to blame - it was more painful than that. I was suffering a Rugby League hangover. It all started early in the week. I analysed the previous weeks performances, studied the team selections, read the newspapers and magazines cover to cover, checked Leagueunlimited every five minutes or so to keep abreast with the latest news, and eventually settled in to watch two dominant teams edge closer to the Grand Final. So Sunday came, I woke up and there wasn?t a Rugby League game in sight.

While life doesn?t completely revolve around Rugby League, every spare moment I get I like to spend watching or reading about the game. Sunday happened to be one of those times, and I wasn?t the only one who was dirty on the NRL. Reports through the week indicated the NRL have been inundated with emails from disgruntled fans unhappy with the mid-September death of Sunday football.

The funny thing is last week I could see a lot of sense in what the NRL and Channel Nine (is there much difference these days) were doing. Nine had apparently encouraged the move away from Sunday football because they achieve higher ratings for night games. On paper this is hard to argue against because higher ratings means more people have to opportunity to watch the game. People with prior commitments on Sunday afternoon would surely have appreciated the chance to watch both games.

In practise the idea simply didn?t work. Sunday felt hollow for fans of Rugby League, and the next weekend of action felt all the more distant. The Sunday papers didn?t feel the same, nor did the Footy Show, or the afternoon radio programs.

However whilst last Sunday was a letdown for most League fans, there may be a way that night Finals can work. Having no football on the last two weeks of the finals series has created an opportunity for the NSWRL and NRL to expose fans to the other Rugby League competitions. Fans were so hungry for a game to watch on Sunday, they would have happily sat down and watched any live game being beamed into their homes.

The NSWRL could showcase the Grand Finals of some of their major competitions such as the Jersey Flegg and Jim Beam Cup. These finals would be televised live by Fox Sports or ideally Channel Nine. Similarly this Sunday could open an opportunity to telecast the Arrive Alive Cup final live. This initiative would not only give fans of the game live football to watch, but would also expose these competitions to a wider audience. The games could be organised as stand alone fixtures at grounds such as OKI Jubilee, Parramatta or even Bluetongue Stadium. Television exposure would encourage a large crowd to attend, and September could be billed on TV as a festival of football, rather than just the NRL finals.

It?s a pity though the NRL have dropped the ball and didn?t negotiate such a deal with the TV networks before giving Sunday football the boot. The Jim Beam and Arrive Alive Cup Grand Finals will be played this weekend with no live coverage, and with such a negative response from the fans, the NRL will undoubtedly bring Sunday football back next year. For Jersey Flegg, Jim Beam and Arrive Alive Cup fans the wait for a live Grand Finals continues.