Off the Wall

After the first weekend of the NRL finals, after all the speculation, media coverage and planning, not much has changed - the Melbourne Storm remain the firm premiership favourites, but contentious refereeing decisions hang like a dark cloud over the game.

And the NRL absolutely trounced the AFL in the head-to-head ratings in Sydney and Brisbane on Saturday night. Unsurprisingly, across the nation, the AFL won simply because Nine neglects the southern state markets.

The showcase Swans v Collingwood match on Seven drew an average of 200,000 viewers in Sydney. The NRL finals between the Cowboys and the Bulldogs and the Seas Eagles v Rabbitohs match had an average of around 600,000 viewers.

The NRL will no doubt be pleased that the Swans are out of the finals - not that their presence has made much difference to NRL television ratings all year. And it will help that while the Storm look like being a shoe-in for one grand final spot, the Manly Sea Eagles and the Parramatta Eels (and maybe even the Bulldogs) are well placed to win the other.

A repeat of last year