At the start of last year the AFL adopted the NRL
judiciary and citing systems – by the start of this year the AFL regretted its
decision and made substantial changes. If the AFL now follows another NRL
disaster – the night grand final – it will regret doing so even more.

The Sunday night NRL grand final is deeply
unpopular with everyone except Channel Nine. So it’s no surprise that the AFL push
is being driven by Seven and Ten which acquire the AFL rights next year.

It is apparently being pushed by David
Leckie, the CEO of Seven, who happens to have been the CEO of Nine when the
network “persuaded” the NRL to introduce the night grand final.

And it’s surprising to read today that half
the AFL clubs gave cautious support to the night grand final when,
surprise, surprise, Eddie McGuire proposed it (at the time Nine still held the AFL rights and was
bidding for them beyond this season).

Ever since the NRL introduced the Sunday
night grand final it has been a television ratings winner – but increasingly
unpopular with players, and with fans. The time slot has been shifted to try and
reduce anger from parents about the finish time – and it has been as late as
10.30.

The fact rugby league’s other flagship event,
State of Origin, is played at night is irrelevant. It has always been a night time
event.

While the day after the grand final is
usually a public holiday in NSW, it is not in Queensland or
other states. And Sunday night is not a time fans usually associate with night
premiership matches, origin matches, and tests. Much of the fun, let alone the tradition,
has gone out of grand final day in rugby league.

The AFL paid top dollar for
its new television deal – but if it has the best interests of its fans at heart,
not to mention the clubs and players, this is another NRL “lead” it should resist
adopting!

Peter Fray

A lot can happen in 3 months.

3 months is a long time in 2020. Join us to make sense of it all.

Get you first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12. Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

12 weeks for $12