New deal a step in the right direction
NEVER have I been happier to be proven wrong than on Tuesday when the new broadcasting rights were announced, and pre-season scheduling of the first 20 rounds of matches for 2013 was a component.
My assertion the previous day that the ARL Commission would bow to the big dollars being offered and relinquish their right to schedule games was obviously a bum steer, and I'm so glad it was. For years I have been an advocate of fans knowing at least six months in advance on what day and at what time their team will play, as is the case in all other major sports.
This new arrangement is not perfect - the scheduling of the final six matches of the season will be withheld until round 16. But at least it's a step in the right direction and should give clubs a massive boost in respect of recruiting season members.
The draw for next season is expected in late October-early November, so for the first time in my memory fans will be able to sit down with friends and family and work through their weekends next year and include attendance at NRL matches on their social calendar with some surety. Yippee.
All parties associated with the new agreement seem happy. And why shouldn't the NRL - $200 million a season for the rights to televise the game for the next five years is an amazing result. The last contract was $500 million over six years.
And while my prediction on match scheduling may have been awry, it looks as though an earlier forecast that expansion is on the backburner was correct. But expansion will come - some day.
Mini brain snap
ANTHONY Minichiello is one of those players who slots comfortably in to the 'great bloke' category. He has been playing at the elite level for 13 seasons and has been a model rugby league citizen.
But exemplary record aside, Mini should never have been cleared of his striking charge at Wednesday's judiciary. The hit on Josh Dugan may not have been intentional, but it sure was reckless.
In two of the clumsiest attempted tackles ever seen, he actually struck Dugan twice in the head and the Raiders fullback required stitches. And the second attempt had all the trademarks of a get square for the initial miss.
For the judiciary panel members - three ex-players - to find him not guilty of striking is not just a mystery, but actually has a whiff of favouritism about it. And while the result is good for Mini, it is a bad look for the game.
Personally, I'm pleased he now gets to play his 250th NRL game against the Tigers on Sunday, but I wonder how Travis Burns, for instance, feels.
Being well aware of the 'people in glass houses' idiom and possible recriminations, my eagle eye wonders whether any one team in the recent history of the game has had better jersey fillers than three members of the current NRL premiership favourites?
Few doubt the class of the Bulldogs, and even less question the ability of their dominant forward pack. But, fair dinkum, should Sam Kasiano, Greg Eastwood and Frank Pritchard honestly be classed in the elite athlete fold?
According to the NRL media guide - admittedly compiled during the past off-season - Kasiano tips the scales at 122kg, Eastwood at 112kg and Pritchard at 105kg. I think most of us carrying a few extra kilos would like to borrow those scales.
Admittedly the fitted jersey worn by the players these days leaves nothing to the imagination and George Rose and Dave Taylor are two other big dudes who would probably appear a tad more flattering in something less body hugging. And from bygone days some names that come to mind who battled the bulge were Bruce Gibbs, dad of current Sharks prop Bryce, his Wests team mates John Donnelly and big Queenslander Sam Backo, as well as Mark Tookey and Piggy Riddell from more recent times.
But obviously 'Dogs coach Des Hasler has no concerns over his weighty trio, all three of whom are brilliantly delivering the on-field goods.