Nine’s sneaky bid to poach NRL final round blockbuster
Channel 9 has done a sudden backflip on its agenda to cut Sydney's NRL teams, at least when it suits their TV ratings this weekend.
The network's director of sport Tom Malone is now apparently a fan of suburban football and wants to cover the Wests Tigers v Cronulla Sharks blockbuster at Leichhardt Oval that will decide eighth position for the finals.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal Malone rang the NRL on Sunday night to try to switch coverage of the two Sunday games in the final round this weekend.
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Fox Sports has exclusive rights to the Wests Tigers v Cronulla Sharks game that is expected to be the highest-rating Fox Sports rugby league game in history.
Meanwhile, the Nine network has been left with a match with no impact on the finals - the Penrith Panthers against the Newcastle Knights - after having their request rejected to switch games.
"On Sunday they're on the front page wanting a team like Cronulla to be kicked out," one official said.
"Next day they're ringing up desperately trying to get coverage of one of their games."
Of Channel 9's four NRL games this weekend, only one has any finals relevance - Thursday night's derby between South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters, where the Rabbitohs are trying to lock in a top-four spot.
On Friday, Fox Sports has the 6pm blockbuster between Parramatta and Manly, while the 7.50pm game is Melbourne up against North Queensland.
Saturday night is even worse with the Channel 9 game being the battle of the bottom between the Gold Coast and St George Illawarra, before Sunday's inconsequential Penrith v Newcastle clash at 4pm.
The Sunday Telegraph revealed one of Sydney's nine NRL clubs was facing extinction as rugby league broadcaster Channel 9 plans to accommodate a second Brisbane team.
Over the weekend Malone declared: "It's a hard decision (to kick out teams) but probably one that needs to be made in the longer term interests of the game.
"That could come from another team being relocated there, or better still another club being discontinued and a new club established in Brisbane."
Blues legend and Channel 9 commentator Brad Fittler later towed the company line, calling for the Sharks to move to Perth and the Sea Eagles to move to Gosford.
An NRL spokesman confirmed Nine's approach to change the Sunday schedule has been declined.