FANS BOXED OUT BY NINE’S GREED
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.