After a two-month hiatus, sport has made a successful return to Australian screens, with the NRL the first football code in Australia to successfully resume its season. The return of rugby league to Australia made global headlines, with the NRL attracting a record 4.5 million viewers by the end of round three.
More than 1.3 million people across Australia tuned in to watch the Parramatta Eels destroy the Brisbane Broncos 34-6, at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. Nearly one million viewers watched the game live on Channel 9, while NRL pay-tv partner Foxtel enjoyed an audience of 355,000 for the opening fixture of the round.
By the end of the weekend, the NRL’s determination to get back on the field had paid dividends. NRL Interim chief executive Andrew Abdo was delighted with the result.
“Last night was our highest-rating regular-season game in six years – that’s an outstanding result for the game and our broadcast partners,” Abdo said.
“To have live unscripted sport back unites us and provides enjoyment and something to look forward to.”
Aussies weren’t the only ones rejoicing at the return of the NRL, with sports hungry U.S. audience taking notice. NFL reporter Cam Inman was happy to see live football again.
Loved it. Athletes colliding into each other at full speed again. Excellent “social distancing” led to the superb try to put @TheParraEels ahead at halftime.— Cam Inman (@CamInman) May 28, 2020
I blissfully still don’t understand all the rules. (I streamed last 20 minutes, once awoken by our cat’s snoring at 3 am)
Reuters in Europe and the Japan Times also covered the opening the fixture between the Broncos and Eels. Strict social distancing rules in the post-Covid sports world have seen the players running out to stadiums, filled with cardboard cut-outs of fans and the broadcast inflated with artificial crowd noise. While lacking in atmosphere, fans are just happy to have life returning to normal.
The National Rugby League is lobbying for state governments to allow the return of fans to the game in July, with a revised 20 round schedule. With rugby league enjoying a victory lap, other major sporting codes throughout the world watch on with interest.
While sport in the U.S. is on hiatus, Australian Rules Football is set to return behind closed doors on 11th June, with Super Rugby set to follow in New Zealand, on 13th June.