The continuing success of rugby league on television in Melbourne is embarrassing for Channel Nine – or it ought to be.

In a typical mean-spirited response, Nine refused to show Saturday night’s Tri-nations Test between the Kangaroos and the Kiwis live in Melbourne.

It was replayed at 9.30pm, but still managed to win the ratings period for every quarter hour of the final hour of the telecast. Not bad for a rugby league game in Melbourne on replay!

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The Nine attitude is impossible to understand, given the exceptional ratings the Grand Final achieved in Melbourne just three weeks ago. And it is made even more inexplicable by the fact that the most exciting player in the game today is the Melbourne Storm’s Greg Inglis.

And Saturday night’s ratings in the rugby league states provided a massive boost for the “use it or lose it” campaign the major sporting codes need to do more to push along.

The game was shown live in Sydney and Brisbane – with Sydney viewing audience averaging around 600,000 viewers and Brisbane 400,000, winning the ratings in both cities. When the first match between the teams was shown on delay a week previously the Sydney audience was just over 350,000.

When it comes to “live” television, the AFL puts rugby league to shame. During the NRL premiership season not one match is shown live on Nine. It is not until the semi-finals that matches are shown live.

That will change next year when the Friday night match of the round will be shown live. But the code will still trail the AFL, which will have three or more games live on Seven and Ten.

Saturday night’s ratings win for the Test match is a major boost for international level rugby league. But it was the quality of the game that gave it the greatest lift of all.

The 20-15 win by the Kangaroos masks the fact that the Kiwis were the best team for 70 minutes. It was a Test match of old – tough, low scores, and exceptionally skilful.

The pre-match hype about it being a “bloodbath” was just that – hype. The tackles were bruising, but well within the laws of the game. It was a great advertisement for the game.

If only Eddie McGuire would take notice!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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