Peter Sterling is a commentator who is professional, who calls and reads the game, who doesn’t recycle enough irrelevant anecdotes, and who does not have a clear bias to one team.
With the impending departure of Sterling out of the Channel Nine commentary team, it begs the question who is actually going to call the game.
For example, there is Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin, who deals exclusively in puns, Andrew Johns, who is relentless in his jokes about how bad his brother’s footy ability was, and Phil ‘Gus’ Gould with the incessant conversation about the ‘young kids coming through the system’.
This constant jocular backslapping, sniggering and overt bias eats at the NRL product.
It turns the rusted-on rugby league fan to listen to radio commentary or just none at all and makes the fickle or the developing rugby league supporter shiver.
This is only reflective of the decline of viewership in Nine’s coverage of rugby league.
Channel Nine have had the rights for the last 30 years. I get there is a certain amount of nostalgia attached with a broadcaster who consistently brings you ‘Nine’s live Sunday football’ but it doesn’t mean the broadcast has been good. It’s the highest bidder who prevails in the sports broadcasting rights tug of war.
Peter Sterling, I take my proverbial hat off to you. Your legacy is well and truly intact.
Just remember Channel Nine’s arrogance could have ended the game entirely. During the NRL shutdown of 2020, Channel Nine threatened to cut their broadcast deal if the game wasn’t scrapped all together, labelling the NRL’s management as “squandered mismanagement by a bloated head office”. Ironic, right?
Channel Seven during that period reportedly put feelers out for the rights and believed they had the funds required to support the game and broadcast every weekend.
By the way this isn’t their first rodeo. In 2017 some may remember Channel Seven broadcast the 2017 Rugby League World Cup not to mention the 2013 World Cup. My true concern with the Channel Nine broadcast has been no tangible change.
So, what do you do to change broadcasters entirely?
Channel Seven should be going after intelligent commentators depicting and reading the game as it happened and before it happened.
Mark Braybrook, Dan Ginnane and Andy Raymond are all experienced play-by-play callers.
Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Scott Sattler and Ryan Girdler are expert analysts during a game.
Jim Wilson, Laurie Daley, Ruan Sims, Anthony Seibold and Shane Webcke could all be sideline callers.
Sam Squiers, Renee Gartner, Katie Brown and Mel McLaughlin could be presenters and Adam Hills, Anh Do and Beau Ryan could provide a comedic show.
This revolution could create a fresher corridor and avenue for new viewers to put the great back into rugby league.