Off the Wall

Thanks to daylight saving, Queenslanders are going to have what we have been denied for some years - a daytime grand final this Sunday.

With daylight saving to start in NSW on Sunday morning, the 5PM grand final start means a 4PM grand final for Queensland viewers!

The issue of whether or not the grand final should revert to the 3PM start that operated for about the first fifty years of grand finals won't go away and nor should it.

The 5PM start is a vast improvement on recent years...but the timing of the grand final needs to be high on the agenda when negotiations get under way for the next television rights agreement - negotiations I assume will start sometime during the 2010 season.

Channel Nine did not give in to even the 5PM start willingly, so we can assume it won't be enthusiastic about a return to a 3PM start. But the NRL needs to do everything possible to put the game's best interests first.

We have given away enough already - just one game in the finals series is an afternoon fixture - and even that must be in some doubt.

The AFL is following the NRL with more night fixtures - but it has been careful to keep the grand final a mid-afternoon event. And it has a balance between day and night games during the premiership rounds, and in the finals series.

We don't have the balance right - the progressive abandonment of Sunday afternoon football because of television pressure needs to be revisited.

The other issue which has been raised again this week is whether or not the grand final should always be played in Sydney.

The Acting Victorian Premier, Rob Hulls, yesterday suggested it should be played at the MCG. The NRL - one has to say half heartedly - suggested earlier this season that a Brisbane grand final would be considered in the future.

The NRL needs to put aside the short term dollars factor and do the right thing by the long term interests of the game. The real battle for rugby league's economic future will be fought in Sydney and Brisbane.

The greater threat is in Sydney. The game in Brisbane, and South East Queensland, has largely seen off the Lions challenge, and one suspects the arrival of an AFL team on the Gold Coast won't do too much harm to the Titans, if any. But the future of the game in South east Queensland should not be taken for granted.

However, the picture in Sydney is less clear. A number of Sydney clubs remain under serious financial pressure -and crowds at a lot of games are poor. But the final between the Eels and the Bulldogs last weekend confirmed that there are plenty of positives - a record crowd, and excellent TV ratings.

The long term future of the game demands that the grand final remain in Sydney. And while we have thrown out plenty of tradition, playing the grand final in Sydney ought to be sacrosanct.

We have already seen "State of Origin" taken to Melbourne because the Victorian Government is effective at attracting "events". We can tolerate that - but only just!

But as for the grand final...let's leave it in Sydney!