Three simple NRC tweaks that could have big impacts

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert


137 Have your say

    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.

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    The Crowd Says (137)

    • October 12th 2017 @ 6:16am
      Craig said | October 12th 2017 @ 6:16am | ! Report

      Morning Brett,

      Great article once again and some great ideas. What makes them such great ideas is that they are:
      1) logical and obvious; and
      2) simple to implement.

      The whole not showing the two games on Fox Sports any given Saturday and Sunday still bewilders me. As you say, there are a whole bunch of free channels floating around in the 500’s not being used. I’m no tv expert but surely the laying down of the channel is a sunk cost and the broadcast on that channel is pretty minor in the greater scheme of things? Fox could even use it as a springboard to launch the careers of some aspiring rugby commentators?

      My old man is out from Joburg so I thought it would be a good opportunity to head to Rat Park last Sunday to watch the Rays v Brisbane. For various reasons (read children) we arrived half way through the first half. When I arrived at the gate I was amazed (perhaps even a bit disgusted) that they charged us each $20 to get in (little ones free). As you have pointed out $20 is too much. $10 perhaps, but $20?

      Simple fixes will make a huge difference but given the recent history of the ARU and the way they seem to turn a two piece jigsaw into a 6 month project I don’t see any changes this season or next.

      • Columnist

        October 12th 2017 @ 10:21am
        Brett McKay said | October 12th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

        Craig, Fox are obviously trying to provide the coverage as economically as possible, which I fully understand, and further more, a live broadcast is not cheap – a Super Rugby game is upwards of $100K (with all the equipment transport and crew, and commentators, directors, producers, etc) and even if they’ve managed to do NRC games by half, it’s still a fair whack of cash for two games a week.

        Hence the two games a week being streamed.

        But they’re still paying for the stream production, so surely it wouldn’t cost them that much more to send that stream out on the extra/pop-up channel. That’s the way I see it, anyway.

        • Roar Guru

          October 12th 2017 @ 10:50am
          DaniE said | October 12th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          I agree on your last Brett. I find the quality of the streamed games also to be pretty frustrating, so have switched off on those. Putting those games on an extra channel I think would guarantee better ratings than streaming.

          • Columnist

            October 12th 2017 @ 10:52am
            Brett McKay said | October 12th 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

            Yeah, I had a hell of a time with the Melbourne game last weekend, which I presume had something to do with the wind at the ground affecting the uplink. I must have had to restart the stream a dozen times, easily..

            • October 12th 2017 @ 11:30am
              robbo999 said | October 12th 2017 @ 11:30am | ! Report

              Brett/Dani putting the stream on Fox Sports More is not going to improve the quality. If you watch the half time fillers they are putting on this year they are excellent quality even if the game is patchy. It is definitely the uplink from the ground that impacts on the quality. However putting it on the IQ would allow recording if you are actually at the game as I was at the Rising game last week

            • October 12th 2017 @ 11:30am
              robbo999 said | October 12th 2017 @ 11:30am | ! Report

              Brett/Dani putting the stream on Fox Sports More is not going to improve the quality. If you watch the half time fillers they are putting on this year they are excellent quality even if the game is patchy. It is definitely the uplink from the ground that impacts on the quality. However putting it on the IQ would allow recording if you are actually at the game as I was at the Rising game last week

              • Columnist

                October 12th 2017 @ 12:18pm
                Brett McKay said | October 12th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

                Robbo, we’re not saying it would improve the quality. Where are you getting that idea?

                What we’re saying is simulcasting it would almost certainly increase the viewing audience..

          • October 12th 2017 @ 1:37pm
            Bakkies said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

            or stick them up on You Tube after the match has finished. Super Sport do it with their schools Rugby coverage.

    • October 12th 2017 @ 7:06am
      Adsa said | October 12th 2017 @ 7:06am | ! Report

      Why does it not surprise me that NRC teams associated with Shute Shield management are charging exorbitant prices to see the games. Seriously the biggest hand break on Oz rugby is NSW.

      • October 12th 2017 @ 9:03am
        Leftarc said | October 12th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        Valid point. Vikings Park is $10 and kids are free. Unrelated, read the NSWRU submission to the Senate Enquiry into Rugby. Your hand brake comment is valid.

        • Columnist

          October 12th 2017 @ 10:35am
          Brett McKay said | October 12th 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

          Do you have a link handy, Leftie? No matter if you don’t..

          • October 12th 2017 @ 1:18pm
            BOGGLES THE MIND said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report


            The weekend of the 28th could be a very average weekend for the NRC, as Clown V Parrot do battle.

            A fair few Aussie players will be involved , at least 46.Right ?

            • Columnist

              October 12th 2017 @ 1:25pm
              Brett McKay said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

              46, out of the NRC? I wouldn’t have thought so.

              There would be a large number of the existing Wallabies squad used for starters, and not many of them have played NRC this year.

              Even if all the Barbarians side comes from the NRC, that’s only 25 or 26..

              • October 12th 2017 @ 1:39pm
                Bakkies said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

                Alan Jones has committed to picking Western Force players and of course Fishpaste is the captain so Brisbane City will be without their best flyhalf.

              • October 12th 2017 @ 2:09pm
                BOGGLES THE MIND said | October 12th 2017 @ 2:09pm | ! Report


                So what is your gut feel on Chieka ? will he release all his squad members
                ( bar his top 25 ) for the PARROTS team ? I hope so. We know Quade is Alans captain so,

                Hanigan. Robertson, Speight, Powell, Meakes, Korcyck, Rona, Timani, ,Perese. Arnold and Ulesee ( who are all in the squad) etc etc could all possibly be in Alans team?

                NRC players to add
                Hunt ( injured but fit now)
                Taniela Topou have been dropped from his squad so you`d think they could be in.

              • Roar Guru

                October 12th 2017 @ 3:05pm
                Train Without A Station said | October 12th 2017 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

                Alan Jones has also said it’s going to be a squad with plenty of internationals.

                Literally cannot be both.

              • Columnist

                October 12th 2017 @ 7:55pm
                Brett McKay said | October 12th 2017 @ 7:55pm | ! Report

                Boggles, sorry, I’ve really not given it any thought. Hard to know who would be in line in any given week..

    • October 12th 2017 @ 7:53am
      Jamie said | October 12th 2017 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Hi Brett

      Once again. Great article.

      I love the fact that this year we are playing under “universal” rugby laws, we need the product to be consistent across the board. It has not affected the attaching intent from teams and for the average viewer it is much easier to follow, no more of “why are the rules different in this comp?!”

      Event days are fantastic, although I was not able to attend the rams game I enjoyed the coverage, it looked like a great day at the footy.

      Personally I don’t believe in “free entry” I know we are trying to grow crowds but I don’t think $10 is unreasonable, specially when that money is going back into the game.

      • Columnist

        October 12th 2017 @ 10:23am
        Brett McKay said | October 12th 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

        Jamie, I wondered about the attacking intent with the move back to traditional points values at the start of the season, so I’m very glad to see it’s made no difference at all. As you say, and as I wrote back then, if that’s one less impediment for people, then well and good..

    • Roar Guru

      October 12th 2017 @ 8:36am
      El Gamba said | October 12th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

      Thanks Brett. Two things, accessibility and coverage. I haven’t seen a game because I’ve been busy and haven’t known when games are on and how to watch.

      • Columnist

        October 12th 2017 @ 10:24am
        Brett McKay said | October 12th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

        Everyone’s busy EG, I get that, but gee, I’ve just outlined who’s playing who and when – and how to watch them – just above!

    • October 12th 2017 @ 8:37am
      Bill said | October 12th 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

      Great suggestions Brett, particularly the comments regarding Fox, I don’t get it either.

      I’m not 100% sure but i think some of grounds in Sydney are owned by the local council who charge users rent. That being said TG Milner, Rams home ground, is owned by the Eastwood club so not sure why they would charge $20. Funnily enough you can actually stand outside the ground and still get a pretty good view of the game

    • Columnist

      October 12th 2017 @ 8:39am
      Brett McKay said | October 12th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      UPDATE: I clean forgot to mention NRC games as Test Match curtain-raisers! Included now…

      • October 12th 2017 @ 1:40pm
        Bakkies said | October 12th 2017 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

        They have tried that and people didn’t show early for the NRC game.

        • Columnist

          October 12th 2017 @ 2:00pm
          Brett McKay said | October 12th 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

          I disagree Bakkies, more than 13000 were in Suncorp by the end of the NRC game the last time they tried it. Which was three seasons ago..