National Rugby League Left 'Red-Faced' After Canceling Release Of End-Of-Season Schedule
The National Rugby League has been left "red-faced after they were forced to cancel the release of their end-of-season schedule at the last minute due to player welfare oversights," according to Ben Horne of the CANBERRA TIMES. There were "at least two instances -- involving Wests Tigers and Manly -- where clubs were given only a four-day turnaround between matches," something which is "unacceptable under the game's collective bargaining agreement." The NRL announced that the schedule for the final six rounds of the regular season "had now been completed and would be released on Friday." But clubs had been promoting that they would "go live to members and fans on social media at 11am on Thursday with details of the previously unlisted dates and kick-off times between rounds 21-26." As late as 10:50am local time on Thursday, an "urgent memo was issued by the NRL for clubs to refrain from releasing details of the proposed draw." South Sydney had "already emailed members with what they thought was the final product." Nonetheless, "it was an embarrassing delay" (CANBERRA TIMES, 7/3).
BROADCASTING ISSUES: In Sydney, Brad Walter wrote at the "heart of the problem is the way the broadcasters choose the matches, Channel Nine getting the first, second and fourth picks and Fox Sports having the third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth." Under the previous TV agreement, the NRL would "devise a draw based on the requests of clubs but leave just the kick-off times to be determined by the broadcasters." The current A$1B ($930,000) deal gives Nine and Fox Sports almost total say. Nine "initially wanted the round-23 match between Parramatta and Canterbury at ANZ Stadium" to be played on Thursday, Aug. 14, but Eels officials complained that their team would have "only three days to prepare as they were playing in Darwin the previous Saturday and then hosting an NRL fan day before returning to Sydney." As a result, the Eels-Bulldogs match will now be played on Aug. 15, after Nine agreed to "swap it with the South Sydney-Brisbane game" (SMH, 7/4).
PLAYERS MISBEHAVING: In Sydney, Adrian Proszenko reported the NRL's salary cap changes for next year include a "no dickheads policy" that allows clubs to "sack misbehaving players without being financially penalised for doing so." Cronulla had to make the "agonising decision to get rid of their star playmaker, Todd Carney, after he was embroiled in another controversy, this time a lewd photo that went viral." Under the "no dickheads policy," players can be terminated "only in consultation with the integrity unit to ensure clubs do not abuse the rule to get rid of underperformers" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 7/3).