The NRL has ditched any plans to bring in a Wildcard Weekend despite the runaway success of the Magic Round in Brisbane.
The sport had toyed with the idea of allowing an extra chance for teams to compete for an additional spot in the finals with a sudden death round for the teams ranked 7-10th.
But a meeting of the Australian Rugby League Commission kicked the concept into touch...for now.
“There are two things that this Commission is driven by, and that is consultation and innovation,” Commissioner Peter Beattie said.
“We sought input from a range of stakeholders on the concept of a Wildcard Weekend and whilst it is fair to say that there was strong support in some quarters, on balance, the Commission has determined that the Finals Series will remain as is for the time being.
“We will always look for ways to improve and grow our game, and that includes looking at all options across our regular season and Finals Series, to engage with wider audiences, boost our broadcast figures and promote our commercial partners.”
But the Magic Round is set to return in future after proving a massive drawcard.
- Key metrics applauded by the Commission included:
- TV audience increased by 2%, compared to the 2018 season round average.
- Crowds reached in excess of 135,000 over the four days of competition, with an average crowd of 33,000 per day – an increase of 12.5% on last year’s average crowd for the same round.
- Interstate visits in excess of 26,000, or 20% of the fans, "providing a significant return for the Queensland economy," said the ARLC.
- Total audience across the NRL’s digital network was over 3 million, the second highest this season and almost 10% higher than the season average.
- 25 schools and junior rugby league clubs were visited by NRL players and NRL Game Development Officers, conducting coaching and skills clinics and engaging with in excess of 10,000 young fans.
- Two coaching and refereeing education events were delivered by current NRL club coaching staff, with in excess of 100 junior rugby league coaches attending.
- And 15 sponsors built fan engagement experiences in and around the Suncorp Stadium precinct.
“Magic Round was a fantastic experience for our fans, our players, our broadcasters and our sponsors,” Beattie said.
“Suncorp Stadium and Brisbane was the perfect backdrop to launch this multi-day event, which is another example of our game looking to expand our boundaries and increase our entertainment brand."
The Commission also ratified a decision for the NRL Holden Women’s Premiership Grand Final to be played immediately prior to the NRL Telstra Men’s Premiership Grand Final.
Beattie added: "I’m delighted fans will be able to arrive early and take in three fantastic games of rugby league on Grand Final day at ANZ Stadium."