Three simple NRC tweaks that could have big impacts

Brett McKay Columnist

By , Brett McKay is a Roar Expert


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    Last weekend’s Pasifika round was a raging success around the grounds, with everyone getting among the festivities as part of a big day of rugby.

    The Greater Sydney Rams enjoyed one of their biggest home crowds in their four seasons of existence, with two quality schoolboy games on the card before the Rams and Fijian Drua ran out onto a great-looking renovated TG Millner playing surface.

    It instantly reminded me a similar event in Sydney last season, which similarly produced a huge crowd by NRC standards, becoming one of the surprise hits of 2016. That got me thinking of some simple things that could be implemented for not much money but which will have an immediate impact.

    More event days
    Simple, logical scheduling. More incentive for people to go to an NRC game. If people are used to going and watching several grades on a day, then play curtain-raisers before the NRC games. Schools games, university games, women’s games, sevens mini-tournaments.

    Any of them would make a difference – but like last year’s Pacific Day at Concord Oval, more NRC double-headers. Obviously they’re not going to work in Canberra, Perth or Melbourne, but why not in Sydney and Brisbane?

    Ballymore. Concord. North Sydney Oval if not required for domestic cricket. Give people more reason to go to games.

    And I haven’t even mentioned NRC games as curtain-raisers for Test Matches. There has only ever been one NRC curtain-raiser, before the Brisbane Bledisloe in 2014 – but this year alone, it could’ve happened in Perth, Canberra, Brisbane, and the Barbarians game in Sydney. Why wouldn’t you?

    Consistent entry prices
    Whether it’s no cost or very low cost, I don’t really care; just make it consistent. This season we’ve seen free entry in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane; $5 on the Gold Coast and possibly for Queensland Country’s game on the Sunshine Coast too; $10 in Canberra and some NSW Country games; and upwards of $15 and $20 in Sydney. It’s crazy.

    Are we really saying a game in Sydney is three times better than one on the Gold Coast? Twice as good one in Canberra? It’s madness if we are, and of course they’re not.

    Free entry has definitely helped grow the crowds in Perth and Melbourne this season and should be seriously considered. If costs absolutely must be recouped through the gate, then surely we can cap it at a fiver nationally.

    The one exception would be the aforementioned event days or double-headers. Ten dollars for two NRC games is still exceptional value, and that would suitable, but $20 for one game? I don’t think so.

    (Image: Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

    Fox streamed games on Foxtel
    Have you ever noticed the Fox Sports More channel on your Foxtel box or on the Foxtel App? It’s their extra channel they use for extra sport that they can’t fit onto any of the other six channels between 501 and 506, particularly on weekends.

    This weekend coming my guide tells me it will have surfing, boxing and LPGA golf, and all live. I’ve seen Test and one-day cricket on there in the past, and the Sunday NRC game last weekend between Sydney and Brisbane City was on there too.

    For three seasons now I’ve been asking the question of the NRC powers that be if they will lobby Fox Sports to show the live streamed games simultaneously on Fox Sports More (or via the ‘red button’, as it known originally), and I know the question has been asked every time.

    I don’t know why it’s never happened.

    But it can be done. Fox have even done it in the past, showing early rounds of the FFA Cup that are covered by their lower-cost live stream crews both online and on Fox Sports More. Indeed in some cases where multiple FFA Cup games have been played simultaneously they have often switched to a ‘streamed’ game heading into overtime on the broadcast channel of the ‘main’ game.

    So why not for NRC games too? Fox Sports have paid for the broadcast and digital rights, but why not make it as accessible as possible for their customers? Why do we need separate accounts for TV and the Fox Sports website to watch the same competition? Why make it harder for people than it needs to be?

    And they use footage from the streamed games on Fox Sports News as it is, so clearly there’s no issue with the quality of the video. Why not get that footage in front of as many people as possible?

    It can be done, I know it can. In fact it makes no sense not to.

    Like I say, these are all simple, small tweaks, but I bet they’d make a huge difference to the competition as a whole.

    (Image: Jason O’Brien/Getty Images)

    Round 7
    1pm AEDT: Greater Sydney vs Queensland Country; TG Milliner Oval, Sydney – Streamed live.
    3pm AEDT: v NSW Country Eagles vs Perth Spirit; Scully Park, Tamworth – Live on Fox Sports 501.

    2.30pm AEDT: Canberra Vikings vs Sydney Rays; Viking Park – Live on Fox Sports 501.
    4pm local/5pm AEDT: Brisbane City vs Melbourne Rising; Wests Rugby Club, Toowong, Brisbane – Streamed live.

    Bye: Fijian Drua.

    NRC ladder
    Canberra 20, Fiji 20, Queensland Country 19, Perth 15;
    Brisbane City 13, NSW Country 9, Greater Sydney 9, Sydney 5, Melbourne 4.

    Hot damn, four from four last week, finally! Which probably means this week is really going to stink it up.

    The real worry this weekend is that the four games look to have obvious favourites, and there’s no evident logic to pick against those four favourites.

    So I’m going with Queensland Country, Perth, Canberra, and Brisbane City, but I just want the record to reflect that I am absolutely certain there will be at least one upset somewhere.

    Regardless, enjoy your NRC rugby this weekend. I hope you can get to a game near you.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.