While both the AFL and the NRL have put their own “spin” on the television ratings for the weekend grand finals, both codes need to take a reality check when it comes to the nation’s biggest market, Sydney.

The AFL had the biggest audience over five capital cities, but it was down by 200,000 on last year, while the NRL share was virtually unchanged.

The raw figures disguise an even more complex picture as the AFL figures were unquestionably boosted by a record half a million viewers in Perth watching the home team win.

The NRL figures were boosted by an extraordinary 900,000 viewers in Melbourne – even more than watched in rugby league’s so-called “heartland”, Sydney!

Although the Swans were defending the premiership, the AFL grand final in Sydney attracted around 25% fewer viewers than last year.

But the NRL has nothing to cheer about in Sydney. Even though the NRL grand final didn’t feature a Sydney (or NSW) team, the average rating of 800,000 is disappointing. For the Sydney viewing numbers to be walloped by Melbourne, and just about equalled by Brisbane, is unprecedented, and a worry.

The lower NRL and AFL ratings in Sydney should not be a real surprise. The Swans’ television ratings during the season were poor, while the crowds at the NRL finals series in Sydney – apart from the sell-out grand final – maintained the downward trend during the premiership rounds.

The AFL has boasted that its five-city grand final figure was over three million – half a million more than the NRL figure – but the NRL grand final was not shown live in either Perth or Adelaide.

The NRL press release yesterday highlighted the amazing Melbourne audience watching the Storm v Broncos game. The 903,000 average for the NRL grand final compares very favourably with the 1.18 million who watched the AFL grand final in its genuine heartland.

But today’s nonsense from Channel Nine cannot go unchallenged. Director of Sport, Steve Crawley, surely wins the grovel of the year (or decade) award with his statement that Eddie McGuire “was the best thing to happen for rugby league in Victoria”.

Tell that to Storm fans who have had to put up with late night replays even when the Storm made the free-to-air coverage this year, until the finals series, by which time Nine’s AFL deal had concluded.