By Jeff Wall, Crikey’s rugby league writer

The National Rugby League will be well
pleased with the record television ratings that Sunday night’s grand final achieved.
The ratings in Sydney and Brisbane were the best for any grand final – day or
night. And, for the first time, the ratings were actually better than those for the State of Origin matches.

And that fact should provide the game’s
administrators with an important assurance for the future. While State of Origin is the
code’s “showcase,” the long term future of the game depends on the premiership.
And the premiership, at the end of the 2005 season, has never been in better
shape.

The Melbourne ratings
for the NRL grand final must surely give Nine, and the NRL, food for thought.
The game peaked at a very respectable 587,000 viewers and was the top rating
program of the night. How much bigger would it be if Nine got serious about
rugby league in Melbourne? And it might not have much choice if it loses its AFL television rights.

Some will use the NRL ratings to vindicate
the decision to stick with a night time grand final – and viewer numbers will
always be higher when an event is on during the normal peak viewing periods. But
I put the record ratings down to the overall strength of the NRL premiership
this year. Ratings, and crowds, right throughout the season have been
exceptional.

David Gallop and his administration deserve
some of the credit. And so do the 15 clubs and their players who gave fans the
most unpredictable and enjoyable season in memory!

Peter Fray

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