The NRL had figuratively shot for the moon in attempting an early comeback, as evidenced by the name of the taskforce, Project Apollo, assembled to make it happen. Yet Nine’s latest statement was more like the final blow landed on Apollo Creed given any delays could bring league’s comeback crashing to the canvas.
V’landys, however, is still punching.
“This is like a boxing match, you take a few blows to the head, a few body blows, but you save your best punches to the end,” V’landys said on Friday morning when, of all places, he appeared on Nine’s Today Show.
Nine cited health and safety concerns in its latest missive, but V’landys saw it as a bargaining tactic; that Nine was stalling in a bid to drive down the price in contract renegotiations. He accused the broadcaster of “scaremongering and alarmist rhetoric”, pointing to the dramatic drop in the coronavirus infection rate since the competition was paused.
Yet given the parties need each other, a compromise will be reached. If the NRL indeed resumes on May 28, it will become the only major sporting code on show. This could lead to an even wider viewing audience, one that Nine couldn’t afford to ignore.
Fox, despite even greater financial stresses, also needs footy to return to stem the churn in its pay-television subscriptions. It’s league channel continues to manufacture content, even counting down to game replays on weekends. Even though they have been brought to life with contemporary commentary – ‘you won’t want to miss the observations of Blocker or Braith!’ – it has been a tough sell.
Fox wanted the regular season to run for 22 rounds. Nine, not wanting the premiership to run into its cricket season, was keen for the teams to play just once. In the end, the parties will land somewhere in the middle
“It will not be less than 17 rounds,” V’landys said on Saturday.
Their next challenge is to thrash out a contract extension, potentially until the end of 2025, that would provide them all with some certainty in uncertain times.