Facing fresh competition from Foxtel’s new Fox League channel, the Nine Network is promising to deliver its biggest year yet of NRL coverage.
Under the new broadcast deal, Nine will retain exclusive broadcast rights for State of Origin I, II and III as well as the Telstra Premiership Grand Final.
Also this year, Nine will broadcast the last five 7.30pm Saturday matches of the regular season, giving fans four matches a week Live and Free as they cheer their team home in the run to the finals.
The season kicks off on Thursday, March 2 when the defending premiers, the Cronulla Sharks, host the competition heavyweight Brisbane Broncos in front of a passionate Sharks home crowd in the Sutherland Shire. The following night Nine broadcasts the grudge match between the Rabbitohs and the Wests Tigers, with Souths’ new recruit Robbie Farah in his first match against his old club. Then on Sunday, Nine has the blockbuster between the Sea Eagles and Eels.
The commentary team again will be led by Ray “Rabs” Warren, the only voice rugby league fans have known and loved for over 40 years.
James Bracey will host Thursday Night, Friday Night, Sunday Afternoon Football and the Sunday Footy Show, and be joined by some of the biggest names in rugby league including the Immortals Andrew Johns and Wally Lewis, along with Phil Gould, Peter Sterling, Darren Lockyer, Brad Fittler, Ray Hadley and Mat Thompson.
Tom Malone, Nine Network Director of Sport, said:
“We are more excited than we’ve ever been for rugby league in 2017. Last year saw more record ratings for State of Origin and the Grand Final as total rugby league viewership grew, and that will be the case again when Wide World of Sports broadcasts the biggest games exclusively live and free, along with Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and the last five Saturdays of the regular round.”
In a collaboration to raise money for brain cancer research, Nine, in combination with the NRL and the Mark Hughes Foundation, officially announced today that Round 11 will exclusively be branded the “Beanies for Brain Cancer Round”. All funds raised will go directly towards brain cancer research. Former Newcastle Knights premiership-winning captain and MHF ambassador, Paul ‘The Chief’ Harragon, spoke at the launch today.
“I'm very proud to be an ambassador for the NRL Round 11 Beanies for Brain Cancer week,” said Harragon.
“Matt Callander and Mark Hughes are very dear friends of mine and both are fighting brain cancer. It’s very endearing that Matt Callander, who came up with the concept, wanted all monies raised to go through the Mark Hughes Foundation.
“This is a very important initiative to raise awareness and funds, which are absolutely vital when it comes to the pursuit of better treatments, remedies and ultimately a cure for brain cancer.
“But they won't be alone, because the whole rugby league community will be behind them in this Round 11 celebration of mateship.”
2017 NRL TELSTRA PREMIERSHIP – ROUND 1 on NINE
Cronulla Sharks vs Brisbane Broncos - Thursday, March 2, at 7.30pm
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Wests Tigers - Friday, March 3, at 7.30pm
Manly Sea Eagles vs Parramatta Eels - Sunday, March 5, at 3.30pm
NRL FOOTY SHOW – Returns with the footy on Thursday, March 2, with live action before, during and after the blockbuster season opener at Southern Cross Group Stadium between the Cronulla Sharks and Brisbane Broncos.
SUNDAY NRL FOOTY SHOW – Returns Sunday, March 5, with new host James Bracey and panellists Andrew Johns, Darren Lockyer and Brad Fittler.
SPORTS SUNDAY – The Wide World of Sports brand new sports panel program, Sports Sunday, premieres Sunday, March 5, at 10.30am AEDT, LIVE on Nine. Sports Sunday will be a frank and open debate about all the issues in the week of sport, headlined by Australia’s leading sports personalities and opinion-makers including Peter FitzSimons, Liz Ellis, Michael Slater and Neil Breen, with regular appearances from big sports stars – past and present – such as Michael Clarke, John Steffensen, David Warner and Candice Warner.
** Check local guides for details. Times will differ.