Barely an hour after being lashed by Melbourne Storm CEO Justin Rodski over a looming fixture clash, the NRL has today backed down and moved next week’s second preliminary final.
The Storm will now play the winner of this weekend’s Penrith-Parramatta semi-final at 4pm (AEST) on Saturday, three hours before the AFL grand final commences.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said in a statement that the NRL “pride[s itself] on being agile and listening to fans.”
“It’s clear that a small change to the schedule provides the best outcome for our fans in Melbourne who have been incredibly loyal throughout the pandemic.”
His comments are in stark contrast to ones made a fortnight ago when the clash between matches was first queried.
“We’ll stand our ground,” he told News Corp. “Sports lovers will have to make a choice. League fans will be more interested in our preliminary final.
“I’m not being arrogant but they should be more concerned than we are that we’re going to put on an unbelievable game of rugby league.
“I’m so focused on what’s right for our sport, not theirs.”
The match had been originally scheduled to directly clash with the AFL decider, which raised eyebrows, before calls for a shift grew after the Melbourne Storm were scheduled to play in that specific match.
This year’s AFL grand final is between two Melbourne clubs.
Rodski had slammed the decision on SEN radio as a “huge missed opportunity” to promote the game in Victoria.
“With good planning and good scheduling, it could have been avoided, and we did raise this with the NRL last week.
“Ultimately, it doesn’t impact us from a football point of view … but a big part of this for us is ensuring we continue promote the game of rugby league in Victoria and our fans and members can watch our team play.
“While they still can, we just think it’s a huge missed opportunity to be scheduling our game up against the AFL grand final with two Melbourne teams playing,” he said.