The Courier-Mail

Mon­days are a small prob­lem but NRL fans, clubs don’t like Thurs­days

- PAUL MALONE

THREE vis­its to Townsville this year by chief ex­ec­u­tive David Smith shows the NRL is lis­ten­ing to the unique draw re­quire­ments of north Queens­land fans, Cowboys chief ex­ec­u­tive Greg Ton­ner be­lieves.

Rugby league reac­quaints it­self with Thurs­day night football tonight, with sched­ul­ing for the Cowboys-Souths game ask­ing fans from around north Queens­land to travel from points near and far on a work and school day.

There are two years to run on Fox Sports’ con­tract that in­cluded weekly Mon­day night games, which will mean there will be about five Thurs­day night games a year in 2016 and 2017.

Be­yond that, fans at sta­di­ums around the coun­try will get more of a Thurs­day night times­lot they have shown they ac­tively dis­like. One turnout gar­nered just 14,095 in Syd­ney last Au­gust when Souths played Bris­bane.

Ton­ner said the club pro­jected a crowd of about 15,000 for the clash at 1300Smiles Sta­dium, the first of four Thurs­day night games in the last month of the sea­son.

“We would pre­fer Satur­day games at 5.30pm,” Ton­ner said.

“This is dif­fi­cult for the thou­sands of peo­ple trav­el­ling greater than two or three hours (to Townsville). It’s a Chan­nel 9 de­ci­sion and the dif­fer­ence from 2018 on­wards is the NRL will pick the draw, not Nine.

“We have to work with the NRL to max­i­mum the right games for north Queens­land and crowd re­quire­ments.

“We need a fair draw for all clubs in the com­pe­ti­tion.

“Some clubs have dif­fer­ent pref­er­ence be­cause they have dif­fer­ent de­mo­graph­ics.

“I know the NRL hear us. Dave Smith has been up three times this year.

“We’re ex­cited that this is only our third free-to-air broad­cast all year, along with the two Bron­cos games. We’d have loved a Satur­day or Fri­day night, but if you are a top­four team, Nine want you to get a Thurs­day night game.’’

Nine’s big­gest na­tional au­di­ence for an NRL game this year re­mains for a Thurs­day night game, the Bris­baneSouths game in Round 1 which at­tracted 1.146 mil­lion view­ers.

The Sun­corp Sta­dium crowd was a mod­er­ate 36,057.

Tonight’s match starts at 7.45pm and some clubs will ad­vo­cate a 7pm start next year.

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Smith
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Ton­ner

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