Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT -

AS they cel­e­brated their in­au­gu­ral premier­ship in 2015, the Cow­boys made sure the tro­phy vis­ited ev­ery nook and cranny of their vast ge­o­graph­i­cal foot­print.

From as far west as Mt Isa up to Matty Bowen’s home town of Hope Vale and south to Rock­hamp­ton, ar­dent Cow­boys fans travel for miles for an up close glimpse of their he­roes.

It’s a shame th­ese rusted on, pas­sion­ate sup­port­ers have been given the cold shoul­der by the far­ci­cal de­ci­sion to sched­ule the big­gest reg­u­lar sea­son game of the year on a Thurs­day night.

When the Bron­cos come to town, it’s the big­gest ticket in town. If you’re not a Cow­boys fan up here, you’re most likely a Bron­cos fan and the huge fan base from coun­try ar­eas who make at­tend­ing this game an an­nual rit­ual were right­fully irate when the draw for the fi­nal six rounds was re­leased this week.

The Bron­cos will grace 1300 SMILES Sta­dium in the fi­nal round on Au­gust 31. No, it isn’t school hol­i­days. No, Fri­day isn’t a public hol­i­day.

About a quar­ter of Cow­boys fans travel over 100km to games. Those with chil­dren or have early starts for work will likely be de­prived of the chance to watch, out­side fi­nals, the big­gest game of the year.

So, who is to blame for ar­guably the most di­a­bolic sched­ul­ing de­ci­sion I’ve ever seen in al­most three decades of cov­er­ing the game? Look no fur­ther than Chan­nel Nine.

The fact TV ef­fec­tively runs the sched­ule is a widely known fact. They pay big money for the priv­i­lege, so they nat­u­rally de­serve a big say in what games they get to broad­cast.

But why not run this game in Nine’s Fri­day times­lot?

The fix­ture av­er­ages over 24,000 fans but it’s highly un­likely that will be matched this time around on a school night.

It will hurt the Cow­boys’ bot­tom line and the game’s most pas­sion­ate fans, once again, are the ones who will be hurt the most.

Thank­fully, the new TV deal start­ing next sea­son hands con­trol over fix­tur­ing back to the NRL.

Cow­boys coach Paul Green ex­pressed his dis­ap­point­ment the game, tra­di­tion­ally played mid year, had been sched­uled for the fi­nal round of the sea­son.

The pos­i­tive for the Cow­boys is a Thurs­day game will give them more time to re­cover for a po­ten­tial fi­nals se­ries, es­pe­cially as re­cent Bron­cos games have been epic and bru­tal en­coun­ters.

“To be hon­est I am a bit dis­ap­pointed,” Green said when the ini­tial draw was re­leased last year.

“Some­times, when you’re play­ing them closer to the fi­nals se­ries, the fi­nals se­ries get their own mo­men­tum as it is.

“So, from our own point of view we prob­a­bly don’t re­ally need a block­buster like that lead­ing into the fi­nals. It just prob­a­bly adds an­other week of fi­nals to be hon­est if we’re lucky enough to qual­ify.”

For those du­bi­ous at how irate Cow­boys fans are at the sched­ul­ing, look no fur­ther than the story the Townsville Bulletin posted on Facebook when the rest of the draw was re­leased on Mon­day.

This com­ment from Tony Weiler: “This doesn’t just af­fect bums on seats at the sta­dium, but also the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try who tra­di­tion­ally have huge week­ends as Cow­boys fans fly and drive from all over for block­busters such as this. Very poor, self­ish de­ci­sion that 9 made, not con­sid­er­ing any other fac­tors than it’s rat­ings and ad­ver­tis­ing dol­lars.”

Or this from Lois Ver­ha­gen: “It’s bloody ridicu­lous. I’m from out of town and look for­ward to this game ev­ery year. Not this year. Prob­a­bly won’t be able to even go. I was just stunned when I saw it was on a Thurs­day night.”

Nathan Bick­nell: “Well I had in­tended on head­ing down for the game but that’s an im­pos­si­bil­ity on a Thurs­day work day and Fri­day as well. I imag­ine thou­sands more in the same boat.”

Mar­garet Joan: “As long as chan­nel 9 get their way to hell with the fans. Peo­ple travel from all over for th­ese games and be­ing on a Thurs­day night makes it hard for fans to be there. Game needs to be moved to Satur­day night.”

The di­a­logue con­tin­ues in this vein and hope­fully, when they get the sched­ul­ing reins next year, the NRL makes sure this never hap­pens again.

COLD SHOUL­DER: North Queens­land Cow­boys fans have lost out big due to the NRL’s late sea­son sched­ul­ing.

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