Coach Wayne Bennett and captain Kevin Walters celebrate their win at the end of the Brisbane Broncos v Sydney Roosters 2000 NRL Grand Final at Stadium Australia, Olympic Park, Homebush, Sydney 27/08/2000.
Coach Wayne Bennett and captain Kevin Walters celebrate their win at the end of the Brisbane Broncos v Sydney Roosters 2000 NRL Grand Final at Stadium Australia, Olympic Park, Homebush, Sydney 27/08/2000.

Day for it! NRL grand final switch a winner

QUEENSLAND coach Kevin Walters has thrown his support behind a return to the glory days of rugby league, backing the NRL's preference for an afternoon premiership decider in 2020.

The last captain to steer his side to a grand final victory in the afternoon time slot, Walters praised the proposal from acting NRL boss Andrew Abdo.

It was revealed on Sunday that Abdo is pursuing a 3pm kick-off for the October 25 decider but is facing some resistance from Channel 9 in ongoing broadcast negotiations with the free-to-air network.

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Channel 9 want the match to retain its 7.30pm kick-off, but the NRL think it should start at 3pm given there is no public holiday the following day.

However, members of the premiership-winning Brisbane Broncos class of 2000 have welcomed the possibility of an afternoon grand final decider.

Walters and his champion halves partner from the 2000 season, Ben Ikin, were part of the last afternoon premiership decider - the 2000 NRL grand final in which they defeated the Roosters 14-6 - and neither are opposed to a return to that start time 20 years on.

The game's 94,277 attendance at the formerly-known Stadium Australia in Sydney was also the second highest crowd for a rugby league match in the sport's history and Walters believes an afternoon grand final could benefit both players and fans, describing the earlier kick-off as a better experience for all involved.

Could the grand final go back to a 3pm kick-off. Picture by Mark Evans.
Could the grand final go back to a 3pm kick-off. Picture by Mark Evans.

"I grew up watching grand finals at 3pm so for me it was the ultimate," Walters said.

"(There are) so many positives for the 3pm kick-off but I understand the broadcasters and the decision they have to make around the time.

"It's a perfect Sunday afternoon isn't it - the next best thing from being at the ground is a grand final barbecue.

"I do believe you get a better contest at 3pm … the weather conditions, especially with the old leather balls back in my day, you have better handling and there's not that dew on the ground.

"I'm not the one putting all my money into it but I'd love to see it on at 3pm for sure."

Ikin meanwhile said that while he was not opposed to the idea, it was ultimately up to the broadcasters to make the decision because of their financial input into the game.

"I kind of get that the broadcasters want to put it during a prime time timeslot particularly after all the money they pay," Ikin, a Fox Sports presenter, said.

"Fans still go (at night) and I've been to a couple night time grand finals and had a magnificent time.

"There seems to be a bit of sense out of this current commission that they want to make decisions based on the fans' view of the world so I understand why they're considering it.

"I could build my day around whatever timeslot they come up with."

It is understood the NRL have not given up hope of the afternoon timeslot and negotiations will continue with Channel 9.



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