Nine’s old boys club hurting their NRL coverage
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Mercurial Billy Slater for the Melbourne Storm in the NRL (Image: AAP)
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We never thought it was possible for Nine to further alienate NRL’s extensive fan base. If the delayed games, strewn with lengthy ad breaks and unpalatable in-game cross-promotions for Centrebet, didn’t do it, the questionable appointment of Ray Hadley and Michael Slater to their NRL coverage this year surely will.
For years, Nine have prided themselves as the premiere broadcaster for the NRL.
It’s been a longstanding relationship that has endeared the channel and its broadcast team into the hearts and minds of the rugby league community.
Fatty, Sterlo, Blocka – all legends in my mind.
But in 20 years, the channel’s approach to broadcasting rugby league hasn’t evolved one bit. They’ve gotten comfortable.
The graphics might be slightly different, the faces may have aged (or been replaced), but it’s all the same. Just a different smell, some might say.
While pay television has improved sports coverage over the years by giving greater opportunities for women to contribute other than for novelty fodder, and employed more sports journalists to compliment the player-turned-commentator personalities, while also providing a good dose of youth, Nine has fallen behind in every category.
Since the 1990s there’s been no real, no persistent attempt to change the way things are done at Nine.
The demotion of Andrew Voss to the QRL coverage and appointment of Ray Hadley in his place as NRL commentator is yet another worrying sign of Nine’s refusal to move with the times.
Instead of searching for new television broadcasting talent (of which there is plenty in the country) they choose old-fashioned, long in the tooth radio shock jock, Ray Hadley.
His commentary last week of the Broncos vs Cowboys game was nauseating to say the least.
In an ironic twist, the ads we disdain so much were actually a welcome pause to the non-stop caterwauling reminiscent of a call at the Dapto Dogs, not the NRL.
After enduring that torture, a prevailing number of viewers wanted better. No, they demanded better.
Will we get it though? I doubt it. Hadley is not short of media commitments. Was there really no other candidate in the ranks of Nine Sport or even other sport broadcasters that they could have courted for the position?
Then we have Michael Slater who appears to be fulfilling the Brayshaw-esque role of “cricket guy on The Footy Show” seamlessly. He is knowledgeable on the game, sure.
But does he add to the show? I’m not yet convinced.
And though I enjoyed his effort last night interviewing junior players, I also remain undecided on Darryl Brohman whose main skill, by his own admission prior to last night, was offering to eat things on set at any given moment.
Why are Nine are so stubborn? Why do they refuse to look to younger (dare I say more qualified) candidates that can perhaps take their NRL coverage into a fresher direction? Nine sports reporter Erin Molan is the lone respected female voice on The Footy Show.
Would it be so absurd to offer her a more permanent position on the panel or for Friday Night Football?
Or how about giving a Footy Show segment to the girls from OhErrol.com for a lighter take on league from a female perspective?
As far as rugby league shows on Nine go, The Roast was close to perfection.
Between old and new footy heads and the odd media commentator we actually took something away from it all. There could have been improvements of course, but it’s replacement The Roast/Sunday Footy Show combination is literally a mongrel of a show. The worst thing since CatDog and ligers.
As genius as Beau Ryan’s crotch gestures on The Footy Show are, and as much as I love Andrew Johns’ valuable insight of Benji Marshal being “a freak”, maybe we as league fans can ask for a bit more. At least more than what we’re currently getting.
Because if Nine don’t shake up the formula, they will continue do more damage than good for the game we love.