The big sign NRL grand finals could return to the afternoon

·4-min read
Pictured here, 2020 NRL premiers the Melbourne Storm celebrate with the trophy.
The NRL's call on Saturday week's preliminary final gives hope to fans for the return of afternoon grand finals. Pic: Getty

I'll give you a minute or two to read the quotes below from NRL CEO Andrew Abdo before coming back to you.

"We pride ourselves on being agile and listening to our fans," Abdo said.

"This year has been unique and an afternoon preliminary final is also an opportunity to provide a more appealing timeslot for younger families in South-East Queensland to attend the game.

"It's an outcome in the best interests of our fans.

"We've got to do what’s right for our game, our teams, our fans and our stakeholders."

Okay, time's up.

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Abdo was, of course, talking about the decision to switch the timeslot for Saturday week's preliminary final to avoid a clash with the AFL grand final.

Judging by the general feedback from fans – and a largely supportive media – it's a move being applauded across the game, particularly in Melbourne where many Storm fans would have been torn between watching their team and the Bulldogs-Melbourne Aussies rules decider.

It’s shown the NRL to be nimble, proactive and cognisant of its audience.

And it now begs the question: If a preliminary final can be moved from a night-time kick off to 4pm, why not the grand final?

If, as Abdo insists, the NRL listens to its fans and acts in their best interest, this is a no brainer.

Supporters have been banging on about it for years.

For the last two decades, the NRL decider has been played at night, apart from a brief five-year period where the game and broadcasters compromised with a 5pm kick-off.

Since switching back to an evening start in 2013, you are doing well if the game begins before 8pm.

It's too late for young fans and has cruelled the Sunday arvo bbq around the TV for us older folk.

We've been sold the story for years broadcasters won’t budge on the start time, but the preliminary final switch shows it can be done.

Channel 9/Fox Sports would have lost viewers had the Melbourne Storm v Penrith/Parramatta prelim final gone up against the AFL decider.

No doubt.

But they also risk losing eyeballs by bringing the game forward to 4pm, according to their previous argument that afternoon kick-offs don't rate as highly as evening starts.

If you really want what's best for the fans, Mr Abdo, it's time you wound back the clock on the grand final kick-off.

Judiciary needs blowing up

Sam Verrills' legal counsel James McLeod summed it up best when he asked the NRL judiciary: "You must ask yourself, what more could Verrills have realistically done?"

Apparently, judging by the two-match ban the panel handed down soon later, there was plenty the Roosters No.9 could have done to avoid contact with Titans centre Brian Kelly.

We've watched the incident a few dozen times and still can't believe cleanskin Verrills was hit with a grade two careless high tackle, let alone suspended for two games.

It should have been a grade one – at best – and a fine, freeing Verrills to play in Friday night's elimination semi-final against Manly.

Seen here, hooker Sam Verrills is suspended for the Roosters' finals clash against Manly.
The Roosters will be without the suspended Sam Verrills for Friday night's finals clash against Manly. Pic: Getty

This was an accident in a contact sport. You can’t legislate against it.

It's been happening since 1908 and will continue to happen, no matter how many rules you put in place and how many players you suspend.

That three former players on the judiciary panel couldn't see it for what it was worth is staggering.

No wonder there have been renewed calls to blow the whole judiciary system up and implement a fairer process.

Bargain buys

Sale, sale, sale.

It's clearance time in the NRL as club begins reshaping their rosters for 2022, giving a host of players their pink slips and wishing them the best in the future.

Gold Coast has only been out of the competition a few days but already shed a host of players, including million dollar man Ash Taylor, Tyrone Peachey and Mitch Rein.

While Rein and Taylor may struggle for deals elsewhere, it’s hard to see Peachey not being picked up.

He offers great utility value, playing just about every position in the backline and easily slotting in at lock if required.

He is the perfect No.14.

Brisbane is sniffing around but don't be surprised if he returns to Sydney.

There are a number of clubs keen to make a play for him.

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