AS they prepare to take on a side that appears to have had all its 2013 scheduling wishes granted, Melbourne Storm claims to have been short-changed by the NRL in the same department.
Penrith Panthers run commercials on Sydney radio in coach Ivan Cleary boasts they are “bringing Sunday football back” and it’s a slogan borne out by the fact they’ve had four out of their first five home games on Sunday afternoon or night.
But Storm CEO Ron Gauci says: “We want more Friday night games. When you consider how we’ve performed this year and last, we believe we merited more than the one we’ve had so far this season.
“It’s fair to say we’d like to have had more.
“My understanding is that Channel Nine choose a number of the Friday night games but not all of them. I think it’s down to the NRL to use its discretion to give us more Friday night games in the final six rounds of the season.”
Sunday afternoon and Friday night free-to-air television coverage is coveted by clubs because of the increased exposure offered to sponsors.
But broadcaster Channel Nine uses the slots – particularly Friday – to woo viewers in Sydney and Brisbane, with the Broncos assigned five Friday night games in the opening nine rounds.
“Aren’t we trying to grow rugby league as a national sport?” said Gauci. “If that is the case, then these are the thing we have to look at.”
All matches up until round 20 have been assigned to days, with the remaining six to be announced in around July. Fairfax Media understands there have also been talks about the Storm filling the now-vacant Saturday afternoon slot on several occasions towards the end of the regular season.
Craig Bellamy’s side arrived in Sydney mid afternoon yesterday while Penrith captain Kevin Kingston hosted a brief media opportunity at Centrebet Stadium earlier in the day.
“I don’t think we’ve played anywhere near, this year, (the level) we played last year,” Storm prop Jason Ryles told SEN Radio.
“If we are going to take positives, one thing is to be 7-1 and not playing your best footy.
“Last week we went away from what the Storm’s been good at under Craig – and that’s flat passing through the middle and getting to your kicks and putting teams under pressure.
“One thing we’ve been down on is our wrestle.”
Melbourne scored 90 points in their two wins over Penrith last year.
Teams for the match, which kicks off at Centrebet Stadium at 6.35pm, are:
PENRITH: Matt Moylan; Travis Robinson, Lewis Brown, Dean Whare, David Simmons; Isaac John, Luke Walsh; Adam Docker, Matt Robinson, Sika Manu, Tim Grant, Kevin Kingston (c), Nigel Plum. Res: Mose Masoe, Sam Anderson, James Segeyaro, Clint Newton, Nathan Smith (one to be omitted)
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Justin O’Neill, Mahe Fonua; Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Tohu Harris, Ryan Hoffman, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith (c), Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jason Ryles, Junior Moors, Brett Finch, Maurice Blair, Slade Griffin, Langi Setu, Kenny Bromwich (three to be omitted)
Referees: Gavin Badger/Alan Shortall
Filed for: SUNDAY AGE