Off the Wall

On the weekend of 2-4 September, the final round of the premiership, Darren Lockyer will make his final appearance for the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium - final appearance unless the Broncos secure a home semi final.

The Broncos, and their fans, want to send Lockyer out in style, and so does the game as a whole.

The best time to do so would be an a spring Sunday afternoon - enabling it to be a family farewell before a full house.

You would think one telephone call from the Broncos CEO, Paul White, to David Gallop would just about lock that in.

Not so, not under the current wholly inadequate rights agreement with the Nine Network.

The decision when the Broncos v Sea Eagles match will be played is entirely in the hands of Channel Nine. It controls the match scheduling - not the NRL.

Nine will almost certainly opt for a Friday night game, because that is its ratings focus. Sunday afternoon replays don't rate as highly.

Nine needs to be pulled into line - and if the NRL won't do it then maybe fan power might.

The Independent Commission needs to address this issue at the start of the rights negotiations. It needs to be non-negotiable...scheduling must be controlled by the NRL, not the rights holder.

The argument that Nine has to decide scheduling because it pays for the rights is nonsense. The AFL rights holder, who pays much more than Nine, does not decide scheduling.

Of course television is important to the game, but the interests of clubs, players and fans need to be considered. And surely when players who have served the game with distinction retire they deserve the best possible send off?

The Darren Lockyer case is just one example.

But it highlights a flaw that the IC must address.

The game must take back control of match scheduling, and manage it in a balanced way.

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