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Matty Johns calls on NRL to SCRAP night grand finals to give the fans better atmosphere

Matty Johns calls on the NRL to SCRAP night grand finals to give the fans better atmosphere and more tradition – after AFL’s return to daytime decider recorded shockingly low ratings

  • NRL great Matty Johns want to see future grand finals played from 3pm onwards
  • Pointed to previous footy tradition of many families & friends hosting day BBQs
  • AFL suffered poor ratings after shifting Cats v Swans clash to 2.30pm at MCG
  • Due to Covid restrictions, AFL’s 2020 and 2021 deciders were played at night

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Matty Johns has called on the NRL to re-introduce day grand finals in a throwback to previous years.

The face of Fox Sports’ NRL coverage believes a kick-off from 3pm onwards would generate a better atmosphere at the ground and evoke a sense of tradition for rusted -on footy fans.

In 2011, Des Hasler’s Manly Sea Eagles beat the Ivan Cleary coached New Zealand Warriors in a twilight decider at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, which started at 5.15pm.

From that year onwards, all NRL grand finals at Sydney Olympic Park – and last year at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium – have been staged at night, with TV ratings the primary focus.

Johns’ sporting quest also comes after the AFL shifted the decider last Saturday between Geelong and Sydney at the MCG back to the traditional 2.30pm time-slot – and recorded dismal ratings.

Rugby league identity Matty Johns has called on the NRL to scrap night grand finals

Rugby league identity Matty Johns has called on the NRL to scrap night grand finals

Johns' sporting quest also comes after the AFL shifted the decider last Saturday between Geelong and Sydney at the MCG back to the traditional 2.30pm time-slot - and suffered poor ratings

Johns' sporting quest also comes after the AFL shifted the decider last Saturday between Geelong and Sydney at the MCG back to the traditional 2.30pm time-slot - and suffered poor ratings

Johns’ sporting quest also comes after the AFL shifted the decider last Saturday between Geelong and Sydney at the MCG back to the traditional 2.30pm time-slot – and suffered poor ratings

Tellingly, almost a million fewer people tuned in compared to last year.

‘I would love to see a day grand final return to the NRL,’ Johns told Victorian SEN radio’s Garry Lyon and Tim Watson.

‘I think it’s a better standard of football, and I just like the atmosphere of a daytime grand final.

‘You see the MCG [for the AFL grand final] and it was jammed with everyone in there.

‘I like that tradition the AFL have of a daytime grand final and I’d hate to see it change…when you have families and friends gathering, they are watching it in groups and at BBQ’s – but not [many do it] at night.’

Johns went onto point out his belief as to why the clash between the Cats and Swans didn’t draw in as many eyeballs.

In 2011, Des Hasler's Manly Sea Eagles beat the Ivan Cleary coached New Zealand Warriors in a twilight decider at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, which started at 5.15pm (pictured, former Manly prop Brent Kite)

In 2011, Des Hasler's Manly Sea Eagles beat the Ivan Cleary coached New Zealand Warriors in a twilight decider at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, which started at 5.15pm (pictured, former Manly prop Brent Kite)

In 2011, Des Hasler’s Manly Sea Eagles beat the Ivan Cleary coached New Zealand Warriors in a twilight decider at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, which started at 5.15pm (pictured, former Manly prop Brent Kite)

Johns also believes people didn't watch the Cats v Swans match in droves as the contest was effectively over by halftime, such was Geelong's dominance

Johns also believes people didn't watch the Cats v Swans match in droves as the contest was effectively over by halftime, such was Geelong's dominance

Johns also believes people didn’t watch the Cats v Swans match in droves as the contest was effectively over by halftime, such was Geelong’s dominance

‘Last week, as far as that game is concerned, some people are panicking saying that the ratings are down,’ he said, referencing the Cats’ blistering start.

‘Well the game was over in 10 minutes, [in terms of a contest] that was the bottom line.’

OzTam ratings released last Sunday showing 2.179 million people watched Geelong thrash Sydney across the five-city metropolitan audience.

It was the lowest rating decider since OzTAM began recording in 2001 and was a significant body blow for the AFL. 

The previous two grand finals at night – in Brisbane then Perth due to Covid restrictions in Melbourne – attracted much larger numbers.

Channel 7 boss James Warburton pushed hard for a later start in the AFL, but said the station will always support the code’s decision on when to play – despite the shocking numbers for the Cats’ win.

‘The numbers and comparisons are clear for all to see to support a prime time AFL grand final,’ Warburton said.

‘It’s a national game and a twilight or prime-time bounce will maximise the audience for the code.’