Off the Wall

The 2010 season got off to a great start on the field, but the Friday night television ratings were even better - and that is very good news for the NRL.

The Friday night live game trounced its rivals in Sydney and Brisbane - a pity about Melbourne where the game was not shown until about midnight. There is not much doubt that if it had been shown live in Melbourne it would have gone close to out-rating the Nine and Seven news.

But the Sydney and Brisbane figures for the Dragons v Eels and the Broncos v Cowboys live broadcasts were well up on the opening round last year and won their time slots easily.

What a pity we cannot have a live game into Melbourne as well!

We have a couple of weeks head start on the AFL when it comes to live coverage - the replay of the NAB pre-season final on Saturday rated dreadfully.

And the even better news for the NRL is that our off field issues - mainly centring around a couple of now former Knights players - pale into insignificance when compared with what the AFL is confronting as it prepares t o launch its season.

There is the Brendan Fevola-Lara Bingle saga, and Andrew Lovett is challenging St Kilda's decision to sack him after he was charged with a serious sexual offence. And there is another player facing a serious drugs charge...

The Knights have done their best to minimise the fallout from the charges against two first grade players. And the players both quit voluntarily avoiding a drawn out, and damaging, legal stoush. The AFL is not enjoying the same good fortune on either the Fevola or Lovett issues!

If the NRL can be spared any serious off field issues (and here's hoping!) then we can have confidence that the 2010 season will not only live up to expectations, but provide the lead in we need to the TV rights negotiations in about a year's time.

The football on display at the weekend was exceptional. Having watched six games on television it is a toss up to rate the best...but probably the Dragons win over the Eels wins narrowly.

There were a couple of dubious video referee decisions - but maybe I have become complacent about video referees, and match referees, having endured four or five months of appalling decisions by cricket umpires and video umpires! Even Phil Cooley is almost forgiven!

What never ceases to amaze me is the ability of our game to produce young players who step forward with ease to replace those who retire, defect, or move to the UK Super League to end their careers.

The 2010 season is not even one round old, yet we have seen half a dozen players - and most of them still in their late teens - who have stepped up to the plate in their first season in first grade.

And one has to concede even a degree of satisfaction with the comeback of at least one player who used to be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Todd Carney is unquestionably a player of exceptional talent - and if he can keep his act together off the field he may well be up the buy of the season.

The season is off to as good a start as the NRL could possibly hope - we can all but hope that it continues, on and off the field!