It’s Not Often I Get Too Worked Up…

Some things frustrate me, like screaming kids in the shopping centre or the people across the road who can’t reverse out of their driveway properly, but there are other things which just scream over the top levels of ridiculous and that gets on my nerves in a way that it really shouldn’t. The scheduling of the NRL draw is just one of these things. Now that the final 6 rounds have been sorted, there really is no better time for me to just let this all out.

Now, I should probably clear a few things up so the context of this blog makes a little bit more sense. I’m a Wests Tigers supporter. Have been ever since the days of the Magpies and just naturally followed them through the merger. In translation, I’m a New South Wales boy so anything Queensland I want nothing to do with. Brisbane Broncos, North Queensland Cowboys, don’t care. Another thing, I do not have pay TV meaning foxtel is not within my viewing arsenal. So Friday night games I watch, mostly the first game and I’m drifting off during the second game and sporadically watch the Sunday arvo games. Even though I’m a Tigers fan at heart, I enjoy watching my rugby league and not just games involving the Tigers. Every team has a different style, they have different players, some with more superstars than others, and its this variation which I enjoy watching. There are plenty of players I enjoy watching, Adam Reynolds from the Rabbitohs and Daly Cherry Evans from the Sea Eagles are just two of these examples. The hope is always, as a free to air watcher, to have the opportunity to watch all of the skills and performances possible by every team in the competition at some point during the year. Unfortunately, as of recently, the mere thought of having a more even spread of televised games has gone out the window.

Now, I’m first to admit I think the Tigers get a few too many televised games. In fact, this very season they had 5 Friday night games in the first 10 rounds. The Wests Tigers, notorious for Phil Gould’s love of Sunday arvo footy at Leichardt Oval, being put on Friday nights. I was actually at two of these games and the old adage that the Tigers can’t play at night seems fair given both times they were smashed by at least 40 points. But I still enjoy watching the Tigers on the tv when I get the chance.

My biggest gripe is with the current hardon the schedulers have for putting the Brisbane Broncos on Friday nights. They ended up with 16 games on Friday nights this season, out of 26 rounds. When you factor in they had two bye rounds and also had a run of three Monday night games in a row. Now, you may think the Monday night run isn’t relevant as it’s on fox rather than free to air, but that comes back to this obsession schedulers have with the Broncos.

You often hear teams complain about the “short turn-around” that comes with playing on Monday night. Now, the only logical complain is if you go from Monday to Friday in consecutive weeks. Luckily, this scheduling chaos does not occur in the 2013 season, something to be commended. Monday to Saturday is the same as a Sunday to Friday, if these shorter gaps between games are relatively well spread, no one has reason to complain. The thing with Brisbane is with the huge amount of Friday night games, combined with their Monday night streak, they are getting consistent full week breaks.

Before you get all worked up, I get that part of the scheduling is about showing teams that perform more regularly throughout the season so more entertaining and tight games are shown, and even the unwritten rule that there has to be a Queensland side on Friday night (although almost always fulfilled by the Broncos). But if we compare the amount of games televised on free to air in 2013 in relation to the team’s positioning in 2012 we get some very interesting results.

Last season’s minor premiers, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs were rewarded with 17 televised games over 26 rounds with 4 of those on Sundays. Although a slow start from the boys in blue and white, they have picked up their performances with many big players returning. Do they deserve to be shown more often? Sure. But 17/26 rounds may be a little too much.

The ‘Dogs are only pipped by one team in total games on free to air, you guessed it. The Brisbane Broncos. With their 18 televised matches, 16 Friday nights as mentioned before, all going to a team which finished 8th last year and have struggled to cement a place in the top 8 this year. This is not the Brisbane of old with over half the Queensland representative players in their team. This is a new Brisbane with younger, unproven players along with ageing experienced players. For a team that clearly hasn’t pulled out the performances, they should not be shown as often as they are.

There are two other teams which really stand out, and not for good reasons. The Canberra Raiders and the Cronulla Sharks. Two of the three least televised teams in 2013 (along with the New Zealand Warriors who I can understand their lack of free to air games), both of which finished in the top 8 in 2012. How badly robbed have these two teams been this year? Try 5 games for the two teams, combined. The worst part is that the Raiders, a team which can be outstanding at their home ground, only got 1 which was an away game and ended up being their worst performance of the year. The Sharks are coming into a strong few years after a lot of key signings along with a very strong squad and yet have been continually shot down for appearances on free to air tv. Their fans must be fuming. The Sharks currently sit 6th on the ladder and the Raiders in the mix for 8th after a very good run of form.

It’s the abnormally large gap between the most shown teams and the least shown teams that frustrate me the most when it comes to this great game. Although I haven’t looked extensively at their draw but I have heard the AFL is a lot more spread with its draw, merely limiting its Friday night blockbusters. But that may be partly down to a different style of television agreement where Friday games are shown along with specific games involving either the teams within the state in which it is airing (e.g. Swans and Giants games shown in NSW regardless of time). But in the non-AFL states, you can forgive them for driving viewing towards certain teams. The NRL on the other hand and these claims that Brisbane is the “home of rugby league” or something now but it seems they can’t go a couple of weeks without the Broncos on free to air.

For the amount of times you can say that Brisbane are the most heavily supported team in the NRL and they may bring in the ratings, but what about all the fans of the teams that continually get relegated to pay tv week after week. Are the Broncos fans more important that those of the Sharks or the Raiders? It’s not like the teams are snubbed for being out of form, more they aren’t in favour with whoever it is that makes these decisions. It’s disappointing to say the least and I know I’m not the only one who hopes this starts to change in the future.

 

For those interested here are the numbers for 2013 with Team Name, Friday, Sunday, Total FtA and 2012 ladder position.

Broncos

16

2

18

8

Bulldogs

13

4

17

1

Cowboys

5

1

6

5

Dragons

4

5

9

9

Eels

6

3

9

16

Knights

2

7

9

12

Panthers

3

5

8

15

Rabbitohs

9

2

11

3

Raiders

1

0

1

6

Roosters

7

3

10

13

Sea Eagles

5

1

6

4

Sharks

3

1

4

7

Storm

5

5

10

2

Tigers

9

4

13

10

Titans

2

7

9

11

Warriors

2

1

3

14