Leigh Matthews seldom missed an opponent who stood between him and the ball in
his playing days for Hawthorn. Now as Brisbane Lions coach, “Lethal” has taken
a fair old whack at Channel Nine’s coverage of AFL.

While Matthews makes it clear he thinks having a good old fashioned barney
between competing networks to win the AFL TV rights can only be good for the
game, which will accord with Eddie McGuire’s view about having a genuinely
competitive auction, McGuire will be aghast to learn that the legendary player
and three-time premiership coach doesn’t think the sun shines on Nine’s tardy
coverage of AFL north of the Murray.

“Certainly for those of us who are up north, we know that Channel Nine has
protected its rugby league coverage by not allowing free-to-air cover or even
cable TV coverage until late Friday night. That’s been done to protect Channel
Nine’s direct coverage of the NRL,” he said. “That obviously is not an issue
for Seven or Ten. They would be quite happy to knock Nine off.” He described
the new team in town for the AFL rights as “theoretically good for the northern
states”.

While McGuire continues to talk up Nine’s AFL coverage as some kind of TV
miracle, and its Friday night coverage is excellent in the traditional AFL
states, its Sunday coverage is no better or worse than Seven’s ever was. But
it’s the Achilles heel of Nine’s stubborn refusal to give way with its NRL
Friday night footy under the current deal in NSW, the ACT and Queensland that
makes its hold on this premium property untenable for the AFL before anyone
even puts a cheque on the table from any of the networks in the next deal.

Unless Kerry Packer is prepared to take his “foot off the neck” of northern
live Friday night AFL, he’s already in a hopeless no compete situation with his
two rivals.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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