NRL dodges crowds, ratings bullet - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NRL dodges crowds, ratings bullet

David Beniuk 18/09/2011 06:49:58 PM Comments (0)

The NRL and Melbourne Storm have dodged a bullet with crowds and ratings for Saturday night's final against the Warriors unlikely to be decimated by the AFL.

With only 86,000 viewers tuning in to watch the Storm beat Newcastle last Sunday, the NRL was staring down the barrel of more poor figures.

This weekend's Storm-Warriors preliminary final was originally scheduled to go up against an All Blacks Rugby World Cup match and an AFL final.

The All Blacks-France clash, which could draw Warriors supporters' eyes away, kicks off at 6.30pm (AEST) with the NRL final overlapping at 7.45pm.

But the Geelong versus West Coast preliminary final will start at 2.20pm to cater for the Eagles' travel back to Perth.

If Carlton had won the right to face the Cats, that game would have been played at night just a short distance from AAMI Park.

The Nine Network televised the Storm-Knights game live in Melbourne but the broadcaster's website was showing "to be advised" in the 7.30pm timeslot for this coming Saturday.

The battle for ratings comes with rugby league's incoming independent commission readying itself to negotiate a new broadcast deal the game hopes to earn as much as $1.4 billion.

Crowds have also been an issue at the NRL finals, with less than 15,000 attending the Knights' visit to AAMI Park, while more than 90,000 packed the MCG for a Carlton-Essendon final.

The league will use AAMI Park and the Sydney Football Stadium over larger venues for next weekend's grand final qualifiers.

NRL boss David Gallop is confident the NRL will hold its own in tougher markets than its eastern seaboard stronghold.

"When you look at the way Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Feleti Mateo and Krisnan Inu play the game, you would have to think that sports fans will want to tune into this game and we should fare fairly well against our competitors," he told AAP on Sunday.

Gallop said the Warriors' timing in becoming surprise preliminary finalists, as the Rugby World Cup raged, was good.

"The Warriors have built a huge following in New Zealand, particularly in the last five years, and no doubt they will have even the most diehard rugby union fans paying attention to Saturday night in Melbourne," he said.

Gallop is celebrating the NRL's final four sides coming from NSW, Queensland, Victoria and New Zealand.

But he could face an awkward situation if Manly and Melbourne meet in the grand final after well publicised run-ins with both clubs.

"I've got no problem with it," he said of a match-up that would revisit the 2007-08 deciders.

"Hopefully, though, grand final week would concentrate on their achievement in 2011 and nothing else."

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