Is an hour after you knock-off work for the week too early for an NRL game?
In pursuit of the 3 Dally M Inside Sport office points on offer for pure commitment to the cause, I stayed back and worked a little later last Friday night (okay, I was trying to avoid peak hour … you happy?) My delayed departure meant I arrived home just as the hooter was sounding for the end of the first stanza of the first-ever NRL game to be played at 6pm on a Friday night.
I had listened to Dan Ginnane and his team’s call of the first half on radio station Triple M in the car as I lined-up with the thousands of other sheep trying to cross the harbour on their way home (so no, I didn’t miss the traffic after all).
There is very much a feel-good element to this new set-up of two live games on a Friday night. After the first match is aired on television, you’re delighted by the fact there’s another game on its way, and it’s not even 8pm yet. And not only that, it’s Friday, which means there’s still two full sessions of the greatest game of all across the weekend yet to come.
It’s time for me to admit I was very sceptical about this whole 6pm Friday night experiment when plans were approved a while back. I had the same doubts as everyone else: who is going to be home from work after sitting through traffic to be able to watch this game (besides New Zealanders) on television and who is going to be able to make it to the ground before kick-off?
Turns out the answers were: plenty and plenty. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Adam Pengilly wrote on Saturday that the Bulldogs-Storm game attracted an average audience of 275,000 viewers for Fox Sports. That’s an incredible figure for a game expected to attract a tiny TV audience.
Likewise, the official attendance posted for the match of 8,712 was a terrific result. I threw the question out there on Twitter the day before the historic match: “What size crowd do you think will be at Belmore for 6pm kick-off tomorrow night? #NRL”
Responses ranged from 4000-11,000 – with a cheeky prediction of an announcement of a 17,000 gate whatever the actual turnout … Anyway, point being the crowd-pulling appeal of the contest held its own despite the untried timeslot and extremely wet conditions.
Sydney’s next taste of fight-the-traffic footy comes in round four when Penrith hosts the Newcastle Knights. Round two and three’s Friday 6pm matches will be absorbed by games in New Zealand (8pm local kick-off times).
REMAINING FRIDAY 6PM GAMES – 2017
Round 2 New Zealand vs Melbourne (8pm local NZ)
Round 3 Canterbury vs New Zealand (8pm local NZ)
Round 4 Penrith vs Newcastle
Round 5 Sydney Roosters vs Manly
Round 6 Newcastle vs Canterbury
Round 7 Newcastle vs Sydney Roosters
Round 8 Canberra vs Brisbane
Round 9 South Sydney vs Manly
Round 10 St George-Illa vs Cronulla (Kogarah)
Round 11 New Zealand vs St George-Illa (8pm local NZ)
Round 12 NO 6PM GAME
Round 13 Melbourne vs Newcastle
Round 14 Manly vs Newcastle
Round 15 NO 6PM GAME
Round 16 New Zealand vs Bulldogs (8pm local NZ)
Round 17 Gold Coast vs St George-Illa
Round 18 NO 6PM GAME
Round 19 New Zealand vs Penrith (8pm local NZ)
Round 20 Sydney Roosters vs Newcastle