BIG Issue has detected a strange phenomenon over the past eight weeks. While casual sports fans have been frothing at the mouth about Origin, rusted-on rugby league fans have been reacting with similar fervour about Origin’s negative impact on club football.

The fact is, we were all having quite a jolly time before Origin came along, weren’t we?

And, as pointed out elsewhere this week, no sooner did the interstate series start than teams providing many players hit the wall, those providing none or few hit a purple patch and crowds and ratings dropped.

But the reason for these ills is the same as the one that has us unable to watch one Sunday afternoon game live – even on the NRL’s own ipad app – or listen to a Friday night game on radio other than the one that’s on TV.

Or have a Sunday afternoon grand final. That is: money offered to the ARLC by Channel Nine.

The Commission may position itself as aloof from the political and PR demands to which the previous administration was accused of being slave but the expectation of a one billion-plus payday must have created enormous pressure on the new boys and girls last August.

After all, one of the key provisos under which our system of administration changed was that we had been undersold as a television product, partly because the NRL was half-owned by a media company.

And the comparisons with the AFL’s TV contract was going to be a litmus test.

So when Nine gave the ARLC the chance to get over the finish line – providing Origin stayed where it was, Sunday football stayed on delay, other coverage was blacked out to protect their delayed telecasts etc – the carrot was too big and juicy to turn down.

The ARLC got a few better conditions out of the deal, fixed scheduling being one of them. The representative weekend stayed after looking like it was on life support.

Of course Origin should be on weekends. Interstate football was only shunted to midweek in the first place because no-one cared about it. Of course clubs should not be denied access to their own players. On every level, that’s patently ridiculous.

But this is a five year television contact. Trying to somehow negotiate our way out of providing its key components to the broadcaster is fraught with danger.

Our soul is sold. We get it back in 2018.


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