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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