Bulldogs.com.au takes an in-depth look at the new free-to-air TV deal that begins in 2018 and what the five key points are.
FOUR LIVE GAMES:
The new free to air TV deal will allow Rugby League fans to watch four live matches each week on free to air television from 2018 as part of a new broadcast rights agreement.
Channel 9 has secured the rights to screen matches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday during prime time and on Sunday at 4pm, therefore the live games shown will go from two currently to four in 2018.
The delayed Friday night game in the current format has been scrapped.
STAND ALONE ORIGIN:
In 2018, the new TV deal will introduce a stand-alone State of Origin match.
The new State of Origin schedule will see the second match in each series being played on a Sunday night as part of a stand-alone weekend of representative football which will also feature Pacific Nation Tests.
This will mean every club will have this weekend off and have no impact on their club fixtures.
The stand-alone Origin fixture has been a debate all season and in the current format, clubs feel the impact of Origin with clubs having to play with either out their Origin players or play with their Origin players backing up, sometimes 48 hours later.
The changes would mean less disruption to the Telstra Premiership with only one split round each year.
NRL TAKE CONTROL OF SCHEDULING:
Moving forward in 2018, the NRL will have full control of the premiership match scheduling taking over from the broadcaster.
The current free to air TV deal has the broadcaster in charge, but from 2018 onwards, the NRL will be in complete control of the draw and the schedule from a fairness perspective and what's best for the fans.
The NRL would lay out the season, but also have the ability to change the draw towards the back end of the season as it is now.
With the NRL in control of the draw it will be able to control the workload of players and look at club turn arounds from one game to another.
INTERNATIONAL RUGBY LEAGUE A PRIORITY:
International rugby league will also be made a priority with a dedicated window set after the regular season.
This means the mid-season Test between the Kiwis and Kangaroos will be axed and moved to season’s end.
Currently, the test between Australia and New Zealand is played on the rep weekend where all clubs are given the weekend off, but the rep weekend in the current format also sees the City/Country match and Pacific test matches played.
The Pacific test matches in 2018 will be moved to the stand alone second State of Origin weekend.
26 to 25:
Moving forward in 2018, the NRL premiership will be played over 25 weeks instead of 26.
Currently the competition is played over 26 weeks, including two byes and the rep weekend off during the season, but from 2018 the clubs will have one bye and the stand-alone second State of Origin weekend off.
The changes would mean less disruption to the Telstra Premiership with only one split round each year and improve player welfare but also the new reducing to 25 will be fairer for the clubs and fans.