Is the end nigh for the NRL’s delayed 4pm Sunday game?

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Rugby League

March 20,2014

Is the NRL on the verge of having the Sunday afternoon match live on Channel Nine? Over the weekend there were reports the NRL is considering kicking off the match at 4pm, shifting from the current 3pm kick off.

Channel Nine’s head of sport, Steve Crawley, says Nine would telecast the matches live if the kick-off times were changed. Meanwhile, NRL director of football Todd Greenberg is looking into the issues around shifting the kick-off times.

If this eventuates, the Sunday afternoon match will be live on Nine, which presents both pros and cons:

Pros

  • The live match on Sunday would deliver higher ratings compared to the delayed telecast.
  • These higher ratings would flow-on to Nine’s news on Sunday evenings and their evening programming.
  • This move could also represent positive flow-on effects to other matches/timeslots.
  • In the first two months, the 4pm match will be a genuine afternoon match, as natural light will still be available.

Cons

  • The 4pm match would start in light and finish in darkness in the months of May, June, July and the first few weeks of August.
  • Could affect crowds in the cold months of May, June, July and August.

The Sunday delay game has been a source of frustration for NRL fans for many years. It is also the one timeslot where the ratings were disastrous last season.

In recent times, I have been sneakily watching an online stream of the 3pm game. It is quite humorous when the match finishes and Ray Warren announces, “It is time to go the news.” I look at the clock, it is ten to five, not six o’clock!

Prior to the current TV deal, the NRL for many years only had two afternoon matches – Sunday 2pm and Sunday 3pm, with the latter game shown on Nine on delay. However, the current TV deal has seen the re-introduction of Saturday afternoon football.

The reason Saturday afternoon football’s been returned is because Fox doesn’t want to have two matches played simultaneously at 7:30pm Saturday night, and therefore cannibalising the TV ratings.

If the NRL sticks by the Saturday afternoon timeslot, along with the Sunday 2pm match, they will still have two genuine afternoon matches, just as it has previously.

Strategically, you could schedule non-Sydney teams to host matches on Saturday afternoon. New Zealand Warriors, Canberra and Melbourne spring to mind.

Warriors due to the fact they are two hours ahead, Canberra with junior league on Sunday, while with Melbourne, AFL attract crowds on Saturday afternoons in Melbourne, so why not the NRL?

When the next TV deal commences in 2018, have two Sunday games at 2pm. One match could be on Fox, the other on Nine. In turn, it would be followed by the live 4pm game.

Delay matches on free-to-air belong to the dark ages. I’m all in favour of a live 4pm match.

Roarers, are you in favour of a live 4pm match? Also, would you attend a 4pm Sunday game?

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Let’s get real: is Vernon Philander overrated?

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Cricket

March 7, 2014

When Australia began its Test series against South Africa, one of the intrigues was how Australia’s often much-maligned batting line-up would fare against South Africa’s bowling attack.

The South African side contained the two best fast bowlers in the world, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.

Steyn, the number one ranked bowler in the world, took six wickets in the opening Test, but he didn’t prevent Australia going one up.

Centuries from Shaun Marsh, Steve Smith, David Warner and a brutal 12-wicket haul to Mitchell Johnson ensured an Australian victory.

However, in the second Test Steyn ripped through Australia’s batting order in the second innings with 4/55, courtesy of reverse swing, therefore levelling the series.

In the third and final Test, after bowling just 10 overs in the first innings, a hamstring injury sidelined Steyn for the rest of the innings.

In the second innings, Steyn only bowled three overs.

Injury did ruin Steyn’s effectiveness in the deciding Test.

He picked up 12 wickets at an average of 26.41 in the series.

It makes you wonder what might have been if injury hadn’t struck.

In contrast, Steyn’s partner in crime Philander had an ordinary time.

Prior to this series, Philander was ranked the number two in the world and was a bowler to be feared.

Three Tests later, Philander’s reputation has been lowered.

He took only seven wickets at an average of 51.71.

Ouch! A far cry from his career average of 18 before the series.

Sure, Philander has only played 23 Tests and, as such, it is not a big sample size to judge a player’s career.

Philander’s hugely disappointing series was one of the key reasons why South Africa got beaten by Australia, particularly in the first and final Tests.

Looking through Philander’s short time in Test cricket, the one country that has given him trouble is Australia.

Philander, in seven Tests, has taken 25 wickets at 30.24, ten runs higher compared to his career average of 20.11.

The nearest country that provides Philander “some” trouble is England, against whom he has taken 12 wickets at 23.66.

Philander isn’t the only bowler in Test cricket history that has had trouble with one “bogey” side.

Legendary Australian leg spinner Shane Warne had an awful time against India.

In his career, Warne took more than 700 wickets at an average of just over 25.

However, against India in 14 Tests he only took 43 wickets at a woeful average of more than 47, a whopping 22 runs higher than his career average.

But the one key difference between Philander and Warne is the strength of the batting line-ups they bowled to.

Warne bowled to world-class players who knew how to play leg spin.

Players like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly … the list is endless.

India’s batting line-up throughout Warne’s career was a vaunted one, especially in India.

Out of that list of players, Tendulkar holds the record for most Test runs with 15,921, Dravid has in excess of 13,000 runs, while others like Sehwag and Laxman have more than 8000 runs.

In comparison, Philander caught the back end of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey’s time in the baggy green.

Both players were past their best.

In the past two series, Philander has bowled against batsmen who many would questioned are not up to Test standard.

Players like Ed Cowan, Marsh, Rob Quiney and Alex Doolan just to name a few.

Those four batsmen have struggled to reach a first class batting average of well over 40.

Cowan has the best average out of that quartet with 40.15

Australia’s current top six of Chris Rogers, Warner, Doolan, Michael Clarke, Smith and Shane Watson is not exactly world class.

With only three players averaging over 40, this author would probably rate the top six around five out of ten.

And that is being nice to Australia’s top order.

So if Philander had difficulty with Australia’s current batting line-up, which at times can be fragile and immune to a collapses at any time, imagine how he would have gone against Australia eight or nine years ago?

He would have faced Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ponting, Damien Martyn, Clarke, Hussey, and Adam Gilchrist.

They were all averaging around the late forties to well over fifty.

Philander looks like a bowler who needs favourable pitch and weather conditions which allow him to move the ball both ways and also attack the stumps.

To be a champion bowler you need to be successful anywhere, any time and in any conditions.

Having said that Philander was up against an opener like Warner, who does put pressure back on the bowlers, and Clarke, with his intensity of aggressive stroke play and quick scoring.

Many other openers in world cricket don’t possess this talent, hence Philander has been successful against other countries.

Can Philander fight back against Australia in future series?

Absolutely.

He just needs to work out different strategies and bowling plans in order to be successful.

But as a cricket fan, when a bowler takes over 100 wickets and averages less then 20 in 20 Tests, you expect something better, especially against Australia’s average batting line-up.

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