In the ire of the Storm

No ap­petite for re­lo­ca­tion

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Front Page - FATIMA KDOUH

THERE’S a new team NRL fans love to hate.

For so long Manly and Bris­bane have been the top two teams in the crosshairs, but the Mel­bourne Storm have over­taken them to be­come pub­lic en­emy No.1.

The Daily Tele­graph’s an­nual NRL Fan Sur­vey to­day re­veals the Vic­to­rian wrestlers top the poll at 25 per cent, with the Sea Ea­gles in sec­ond at 15 per cent.

For­mer play­maker Brett Finch said the crit­i­cism lev­elled at the side was “com­plete rub­bish”.

In an indi­ca­tion the Storm’s un­pop­u­lar­ity may have more to do with their sus­tained suc­cess, Craig Bel­lamy was by far the top pick for the coach ri­val fans would love to see lead their club.

The sur­vey also re­veals the game’s best player, where the game should ex­pand to next, and who is the most pop­u­lar com­men­ta­tor.

FOR­GET re­lo­cat­ing a Syd­ney club, NRL fans have spo­ken and they want to see the com­pe­ti­tion ex­pand to 18 teams.

The Daily Tele­graph asked fans about the big­gest and most press­ing is­sues in the game in our an­nual NRL sur­vey. In re­gards to ex­pan­sion, 31 per cent of sup­port­ers want to see the com­pe­ti­tion grow to 18 teams within five years.

But 28 per cent of peo­ple are happy with the cur­rent struc­ture and don’t want to see any changes made.

Last week, The Daily Tele­graph’s Sports Edi­tor at Large, Phil Roth­field, re­vealed Chan­nel 9 wanted to kill off an ex­ist­ing club to in­tro­duce a new Bris­bane team and a Syd­ney club was in the broad­caster’s crosshairs.

Af­ter an im­me­di­ate back­lash to the pro­posal, Chan­nel 9 backed down from the com­ments and our sur­vey re­sults fur­ther val­i­date the lack of an ap­petite in the league com­mu­nity for such a move.

Bris­bane (29 per cent) and Perth (25 per cent) are the most pop­u­lar lo­ca­tions to in­tro­duce the two new clubs.

The NSW cen­tral coast (23 per cent) was also a pop­u­lar choice.

Fans also took aim at the video bunker’s in­abil­ity to rule on for­ward passes. An over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity (71 per cent) want to see for­ward passes re­ferred to the bunker.

But this is one is­sue where peo­ple power might not be enough to force a change. The NRL’s head of foot­ball, Gra­ham An­nes­ley, has main­tained the bunker won’t be called on to rule on for­ward passes.

“Un­der cur­rent tech­nol­ogy, I am [op­posed to the video ref­eree rul­ing on for­ward passes],” An­nes­ley said. “While you will see the oc­ca­sional one that is clear, you see many more that you look at and say ‘how do you tell?’

“That’s what hap­pened last time it was used. There were many re­ferred to the video ref­eree for a de­ci­sion and that cre­ated more con­tro­versy than the pass it­self.”

But re­lief might be on the way for fed-up fans.

The NRL is still ac­tively seek­ing a com­pany which can cre­ate for­ward-pass tech­nol­ogy, which it is open to introducin­g as early as 2021.

“It’s not an op­tion for next year but we are still talk­ing to tech­nol­ogy providers to see whether that is a rea­son­able op­tion for us as early as 2021,” An­nes­ley said.

“The soft­ware ca­pa­ble of do­ing that hasn’t been de­vel­oped. There are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent par­ties that have con­tacted us and have told us they be­lieve that they can de­velop that us­ing a num­ber of dif­fer­ent tech­niques avail­able.

“We are look­ing for some­one to demon­strate that they have the ca­pa­bil­ity to do it and that it is re­li­able and has cred­i­bil­ity.”

But An­nes­ley will need to be sat­is­fied that any new tech­nol­ogy won’t have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the over­all prod­uct of the NRL.

“We need to take into con­sid­er­a­tion all of the other fac­tors, which are how many more ad­di­tional stop­pages will we have and what does it do to the con­ti­nu­ity of the game,” he said. “It all has to be con­sid­ered as part of the over­all out­come.”

Rab­bitohs fans at a match on the Cen­tral Coast, which is a pop­u­lar choice for ex­pan­sion. Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

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