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NRL TV deal dominates day of drama

Rugby League more than lived up to its tag as the sport that keeps giving on Tuesday.
NRL TV deal dominates day of drama
by NRL

By Ian McCullough

SYDNEY, Aug 21 AAP - Rugby League more than lived up to its tag as the sport that keeps giving on Tuesday.

It was a day dominated by news of the ARLC putting pen to paper on a television rights deal worth just over a $1 billion with the Nine Network and Foxtel to broadcast the NRL for the next five years.

It also saw Laurie Daley's appointment as NSW State of Origin coach, the sacking of Warriors mentor Brian McClennan, the retirement of St George Illawarra's grand-final-winning skipper Ben Hornby and star hooker Issac Luke's relegation to NSW Cup by South Sydney coach Michael Maguire.

And for good measure axed NRL CEO David Gallop was appointed as new supremo of Football Federation Australia,

However, they were all merely footnotes following the most important development in rugby league since the start of the Super League war in the mid-90s.

Like Gallop's shock departure in June, news of the TV rights agreement was kept under wraps until Tuesday morning, shortly after ARLC chairman John Grant signed off on the new deal with Nine Network boss David Gyngell and Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany.

Grant and the eight-member commission would be forever judged on this agreement which will increase the salary cap for clubs and also see more cash directed to the grass roots level of the game - and they delivered.

Grant has hailed the news "the greatest deal ever done" by the sport.

"Today we answer the $1 billion question with the $1 billion-plus answer," Grant said.

"This is a fantastic outcome for the game and starts the journey the Commission was formed to oversee.

"The cash that comes from the agreement, used wisely, will provide a funding base to sustainably grow our game from its grassroots to the elite levels."

Gyngell said league was part of Nine's "DNA" and despite the cash-strapped network and Foxtel having to fork out $90m up front between them, it was a race they had to win, beating off competition from the Seven and Ten Networks. "We have certainly stepped up and paid as much money as we could," Gyngell said.

"It is the greatest sport for television in the winter months and perfectly complements our cricket coverage.

"It is part of our heritage and a must-win for us and I think the price was fair and reasonable."

As part of the deal, Nine demanded the grand final would kick off at 7.15pm and State of Origin would remain in its current Wednesday night spot.

This killed off any hope from players and coaches of stand-alone Origin rounds, but Gyngell insisted they would be well recompensed under the new deal.

"The players and clubs are all going to get a good drink out of this, there is nothing surer than that," he said.

"Salary caps are going to increase and the grants to the clubs are going to improve. The most important thing is that with the windfall for the game we grow the roots and get more people playing it and fend off the AFL in Sydney and in Queensland."

The Sunday afternoon game will also still be shown on delay at 4pm AEST.

Fox will continue with five live games over the round, including Monday night football.

However, the ARLC was successful in demanding a fixed schedule for the first 20 rounds of the season, something clubs were very keen to address.

News of the deal was greeted warmly by Rugby League Players Association CEO David Garnsey, who said the players would benefit.

"It gives us great cause for optimism as it allows us to have some sort of certainty with the numbers we are dealing with when we go into negotiations," Garnsey said.

"It's what the players were looking for and it should give us a greater share of the game's revenue."

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