'Proper walloping': AFL's massive grand final win over NRL

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Richmond players, pictured here celebrating after winning the AFL grand final.
Richmond players celebrate after winning the AFL grand final. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The AFL has scored a massive win over the NRL in grand final TV ratings in a further indication the night time decider could be here to stay.

The Melbourne Storm’s 26-20 victory over Penrith in Sunday night’s NRL grand final was watched by 2.967 million nationally, including 2.103 million in metro markets.

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While that number was up from 1.866 million in 2019, both fell way short of what the AFL produced.

The AFL’s first ever night-time grand final drew a national audience of 3.812 million viewers, the highest since 2016.

Discussing the numbers on Monday, AFL journalist and commentator Gerard Whateley described it as a “walloping”.

“3.8 million versus 2.9 million in round figures. That is a walloping,” Whateley said on SEN radio.

“That is a proper walloping in the AFL’s favour.”

With the AFL’s biggest market of Victoria being in a semi-lockdown, TV numbers would have skyrocketed with two teams from the state in the decider.

Debate rages over night AFL grand final

Richmond stars Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt are among a host of high-profile AFL figures giving the thumbs down to the late grand final time slot, despite it proving to be a television ratings winner.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan finally got his wish to see a season decider played under lights, with the traditional 2.30pm time slot pushed back to 7.30pm AEDT.

The decision was cause for heated debate amongst football supporters after being announced in September, and the future of the start time is yet to be determined.

“I know that the ratings were through the roof, so clearly from a broadcasting point of view that's a bonus,” Cotchin said on Sunday.

“From all reports, I didn't get to see the entertainment, but that was a plus as well.

“But I love the day game. I grew up playing footy during the day and there's nothing better than a red Sherrin at the MCG - albeit the Gabba is a special place too - on a Saturday afternoon.

“It's the romance. For me that's what feels the norm.”

Melbourne Storm players, pictured here celebrating with the NRL premiership trophy.
Cameron Smith and the Melbourne Storm celebrate with the NRL premiership trophy. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Gabba produced a spectacular setting at night, with a lighting show and fireworks part of the pre-match and halftime entertainment as well as the post-match celebrations.

But Riewoldt felt the traditional afternoon slot was preferable because players and fans did not have to wait as long for the action to get underway.

He joked that many supporters were “half-cut” by the time they arrived at the Gabba for the bounce down at 6.30pm local time.

“I probably would prefer a day grand final, to be honest,” Riewoldt said.

“It's a completely different spectacle, and great that I've experienced both, but I'm really not fussed too much.

“The game's growing and evolving and this year's obviously been a different one, but we've been able to trial some stuff going forward.

“Whilst it's been financially difficult for the AFL I think there's some really positive lessons that have been learnt over the last six months.”

Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale thought the night time slot was “pretty good”, pointing to the television ratings as a key factor to be considered in future decisions around the grand final start time.

“It felt like a grand final,” Gale said after the game.

“As a code we have a responsibility to take the game to as many eyeballs as possible and, gee, there would have been a lot watching tonight at three-quarter time.

“But at the end of the day they could play at 6am, I don't care.”

with AAP

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