There were 12 fixtures that were scheduled to be played on free-to-air TV twice in the original draw, which were deemed the most valuable to the Nine network given they indicated a desire to broadcast both legs of the fixture.
Because Nine was asked to make its picks before the finals, its selections didn’t include the Roosters-Raiders grand final rematch. It was later added to Nine’s schedule by the NRL, who is given the authority to select 10 free-to-air games on top of Nine’s 65.
While some may come as a surprise, Nine often choose two teams from different states to maximise ratings by reaching a wider audience.
It’s why the Melbourne Storm, North Queensland Cowboys and Brisbane Broncos feature so regularly on free-to-air TV. The Parramatta Eels and South Sydney Rabbitohs are also a big hit with broadcasters.
Other key match-ups outside the non-negotiable list that are expected to be included twice include Valentine Holmes against the Sharks and the rescheduled traditional ANZAC Day game between the Roosters and Dragons.
The Herald looked at Nine’s selections from the original draw and factored in television ratings and rivalries to compile a list of the teams that will most likely square off against each other twice in 2020. See chart below.
RLPA boss Clint Newton was under immense pressure a fortnight ago when players began openly questioning his resolve in the midst of negotiations, concerned that he didn’t have the stomach to get dirty with Peter V’landys and the NRL.
So much so that several of the most outspoken RLPA delegates began sourcing external legal and financial advice, including from one of the biggest names in Australian media.
It boiled over when one high profile player voiced his frustrations at Newton while on a phone hook-up with 20-odd players on the day this newspaper broke the story of the planned player revolt.
All was forgiven when Newton managed to land the 80 per cent pay deal, but some players still have doubts over the former Newcastle and Melbourne forward.
While none of the players wants to see Newton lose the job he only received six weeks ago, there is a belief that he could benefit from some assistance as he continues to gain experience and learn lessons along the way.
Momentum is gathering from a section of the playing group to appoint a three-man committee to advise the RLPA, with former Nine boss David Gyngell atop the list.
The NRL has moved salary cap auditor Richard Gardham out of the integrity unit and into his own office. Gardham is the beneficiary of chief financial officer Tony Crawford’s demise, with the salary cap auditor taking on the added responsibility of running the game’s finances.
FRIZELL FREE TO GO
After ending its six week contract freeze this week, the NRL finally approved Tyson Frizell’s contract with the Newcastle Knights from next season. Whispers won’t go away that he may be in the Hunter before the season’s out.
DONAGHY IN DEMAND
Speaking of whispers, there’s strong mail around that Melbourne Storm chief executive Dave Donaghy will be departing at the end of the season. It’s unlikely he will be the next NRL CEO, but there are people in high places at head office who want him calling the shots alongside Andrew Abdo, or whoever it may be who end up as Todd Greenberg’s successor. But don’t discard the Broncos, who are looking at Donaghy as Paul White’s replacement at the end of the year.
STORM OF PROTEST
Albury council’s stance against the Melbourne Storm last week hasn’t been lost on a number of fuming clubs, who have scratched the New South Wales border town from their future plans.
The council often makes pitches to clubs to host NRL games – with Manly taking a game to the region in 2015. Don’t expect to see much NRL action in Albury over the next few years.
As revealed in this column three weeks ago, the International Rugby League is making plans around a three-game series between Tonga and New Zealand to run parallel to the State of Origin series in November.
Another idea on the table is potentially forming a Great Britain side to compete in a range of Test matches, using players based in Australia given the uncertainty around international travel restrictions.
James Graham, Tom Burgess, John Bateman, Josh Hodgson, George Williams, Elliott Whitehead, Ryan Sutton and Ryan Hall have all played in the NRL, while Matthew Johns’ two sons, Cooper and Jack, would also qualify given their Welsh heritage.
While the NRL broadcast value is set to drop in the coming weeks, the international game could receive a boost on the back of the success that followed the 2017 World Cup.
IRL director Troy Grant, who is also a member of the Project Apollo team, will meet with broadcasters to discuss the future of the international game.
A number of potential rule changes for 2020 were put to the coaches in a vote recently. They included the potential for a 10-man interchange system, the introduction of an 18th man to be used as a replacement for a player concussed, drinks break at the 20 minute mark and the increase of game day squad sizes.
Fourteen of the 16 coaches took part, with the majority voting against the changes, bar one. There’s support among the coaches to carry an 18th man on the bench, who can only be used if a player leaves the field with a concussion as a result of foul play from the opposition that is placed on report.
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald