The draw for the rest of the shortened NRL season has last year’s grand finalists featured on Channel 9 just three times.
I have lost count of the number of times over the years that I have been approached by Raiders fans complaining (and rightly so) about the lack of free-to-air television coverage afforded the Canberra Raiders.
At times any argument for more televised Raiders games lacked momentum because the team was struggling. This was presented as the reason why the Raiders weren’t broadcast as often as other teams.
The argument shifted when the Raiders started to find success on the field. It was then claimed they didn’t draw the television viewer numbers of lesser-performing Sydney teams.
Again the NRL’s draw for the remainder of the season has the Raiders, last year’s grand finalists and competition favourites, relegated to just three free-to-air games.
Only the Gold Coast Titans, with one game on Channel 9, and the New Zealand Warriors with two, fare worse. The Sharks also feature on free to air three times, the same as the Raiders.
Brisbane has 15 games and Parramatta 13 while last year’s premiers, the Roosters, are featured on Channel 9 a total of 11 times.
Sure, every Raiders game will be on Fox Sports, but the viewership is significantly lower than if it was televised on Channel 9.
There is also the possibility that many fans will miss out on seeing the Raiders play for the majority of the season with home games, for the first nine rounds, played in Sydney (mainly Campbelltown) or Melbourne (round 3 against the Storm on Saturday, 30 May) in front of no crowd.
This, of course, is coupled with the fact that clubs and pubs are closed for the foreseeable future so crowds can’t gather to watch sport at these venues.
In short, it’s a huge financial bonus for teams to be broadcast on free-to-air television with sponsors keen to see their brand on the players’ jumpers.
The obverse also applies for clubs not represented on free to air. It’s an opportunity lost. There’s also the loss in terms of brand awareness for the individual players and the clubs.
To replicate the feat of last season the Raiders will have to do it the hard way with the team, at this stage, having a lot of mainly highway travel in front of them.
If nothing else, it will galvanise Raiders fans. There have been times over the years when the team has performed at its best when feeling as though there has been a sense of injustice.
While they might be feeling unloved by the NRL and Channel 9, that’s definitely not the case in Canberra.