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Channel Nine has dispatched yet another kick in the guts to loyal Rugby League fans by revealing that it will not be showing game one of the State of Origin series live in Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth. Instead AFL dominated states will have to wait until 9:30PM (Melbourne), 10:30PM (Adelaide) or 12:10AM (Perth) to see the replay.
This is an incredibly disappointing outcome for supporters in these states. It is also catastrophic for the development of grass roots Rugby League in the non-traditional League states.
The State of Origin is the greatest spectacle Rugby League has to offer. It has become perhaps the defining aspect of our game. No other football code in the country can claim a game that holds such passion. Where it is mate against mate, toughing it out for pride. So how is the NRL promoting league in the AFL states? Clearly the Storm's success in 1999 hasn't been properly capitalised upon, with few games shown live on free-to-air in Melbourne. Surely if League is to make headway, then wouldn't showing Origin live be a good place to start?
Nearly 600,000 people watched the NRL Grand Final in Melbourne showing that there is real interest to watch top Rugby League games live. The huge ratings clearly displeased some from the home of Aussie Rules with radio station 3AW labelling the 600,000 people who watched the Rugby League as a "DISGRACE". Wouldn't it be fantastic to hear them saying things like that more often?
On the other side of the coin, the AFL is streets ahead in promoting their game in other states. As part of its coverage contract, Network Ten has been forced to show AFL games live into Brisbane and parts of NSW. As a result, support for Aussie Rules is said to have increased dramatically in these areas. The NRL should seriously consider a similar agreement with Nine, if it really is committed to showcasing our sport across the country - in which case Origin football should be given the highest priority.
It was truly fantastic to see so many Sydney people get behind the Swans this weekend with record ticket sales for the clash against Essendon at Aussie Stadium. It would be hard to see Melbourne people getting behind the Storm if they were in a similar position to the Swans. This isn't because Melbourne people don't like Rugby League. It is because the game is not being promoted well in the traditional AFL states. Brisbane and Sydney have shown that multiple football codes can exist in the one city. Surely Melbourne, the self-titled "Sporting Capital of Australia" can also provide for multiple codes.
So what has Nine deemed to be more interesting to Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth viewers than the Origin?
Lucky Melbourne viewers can enjoy the documentary 'Postcards from Docklands', which is a behind the scenes look at the transformation of Melbourne's old Docklands into "Telstra Dome" which doubles as the most despised football ground among AFL fans. Over in Adelaide Don Burke will invite people to find out about some of Melbourne's best food by tuning into his hour of fun. Meanwhile, Perth viewers ironically get to view an Auction held just a few minutes drive from Lang Park on "Location Location".
While the delayed coverage will not overly effect loyal supporters who are used to hunting down venue's with Satellite feeds, or enduring a total media blackout and a painful extra wait until watching the replay. It will effect how many others are attracted to our game. It will effect the promotion of Rugby League in other states and it will continue to show why the AFL is having more success at promoting their game.
It's time for the NRL to do something. We rightly call our game the Greatest on Earth. Why don't we let people in other states realise that this is true by showing them the greatest game of them all...STATE OF ORIGIN!