TV ratings shock: Dolphins’ historic win over Broncos, NRL rivals

The NRL’s new 17th team have blown away their rivals, earning the second highest pre-season trial viewership in history. Media Buzz reveals every fixture’s TV audience.

The Dolphins’ Sunday afternoon game against the Cowboys in Cairns was the highest rating of nine matches on Fox Sports and Kayo in the NRL’s pre-season – well ahead (76,000 viewers) over cross-town rivals the Broncos.

The audience for the game was almost double the amount of viewers for the Wests Tigers v Warriors game that was up against the first day’s play of the cricket in India.

The Dolphins-Cowboys game had the second highest ratings in history for a pre-season trial, behind only last year’s Charity Shield.

The fact it was such a tight and exciting game (22-all draw) helped.

It was a huge weekend for Fox Sports and Kayo with their ratings up by nine per cent on last year’s pre-season.

Independent commission chairman Peter V’landys was delighted with the figures.

“The main criteria in having a 17th club was being in an area that would bring a new audience to rugby league,” V’landys said.

“It’s early days but the Dolphins’ numbers are a real positive for the game.”

Fox Sports’ Director of Television Steve Crawley said it was a fantastic result for V’landys and CEO Andrew Abdo.

“From the very beginning they were confident it would add to the broadcast audiences,” Crawley said, “It’s early days for the Dolphins but a great way to kick off the pre-season.

“From a visual viewpoint their jumpers and look are bright and refreshing and to finish level with an outfit predicted as top-four material in the Cowboys is pretty cool.”

Remarkably the newcomers attracted an audience way above local rivals the Brisbane Broncos in their trial match against the Gold Coast Titans – 260,000 to 184,000.

There is obviously an enormous fascination around old seven-time premier coach Wayne Bennett and whether he can achieve success with the franchise, despite having been unable to sign a marquee player.

The Dolphins missed out on the likes of Kalyn Ponga, Cameron Munster, Brandon Smith, Dylan Brown, Harry Grant, Jahrome Hughes and other high-profile signings – footballers that get turnstiles clicking and attract big TV ratings.

Bennett was among the TV viewers, having chosen not to travel to Cairns for the game.

The Canterbury Bulldogs under new coach Cameron Ciraldo attracted the second highest audience of the weekend (229,000) in the match against the Canberra Raiders.

The Dolphins are over the moon.

“We’re rapt with the numbers,” said Dolphins CEO Terry Reader.

“It’s not surprising because we’ve always said Brisbane needed two teams.

“We’ve obviously got a nice supporter base to build on.

“Hopefully we’re building a club fans will be proud of.”


Channel 9 is paying $315 million for the Olympics until Brisbane in 2032. It’s a lot of money for what adds up to 10 weeks of live sport.

The network is also paying $100 million a year for two weeks of Australian Open tennis.

It makes their NRL deal look like a bargain.

Nine is paying just $115 million for 30 weeks of rugby league each year including exclusive rights three State or Origin games and the grand final.


2GB’s Continuous Call team hasn’t had a female presence since Erin Molan was axed three years ago. That’s about to change with the addition of Channel 9 star Alana Ferguson.

Ferguson will work on the Saturday afternoons alongside host Mark Levy and other panel members.

A former player, she knows her footy and will add a much-needed fresh perspective.

2GB will also have former Blues Origin stars Boyd Cordner and Josh Morris plus Manly’s assistant coach Shane Flanagan as regular contributors.

Ray Hadley will also call his 90th, 91st and 92nd Origin games this year plus his 34th grand final.

The Continuous Call team won the weekend rugby league ratings last year but rivals Triple M and the ABC closed the gap considerably.

The 2GB audience size is nothing like it used to be in halcyon days of Ray Hadley, Bob Fulton, Peter Frilingos and Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach days.

SEN has added former dual international Matt Rogers to their coverage.


The Supercars are a huge rating sport on Fox Sports, Kayo and Channel 7. They are not that far behind NRL, AFL and cricket. It’s why the sports radio network SEN has jumped on board and signed a deal to cover motor racing this year. They will cover 12 races, starting in Newcastle on March 10.


Australia may have struggled but the first cricket Test in India is proving to be a ratings smash hit on Fox Sports and Kayo.

Audience figures for the first two days in Nagpur have matched any of the ratings during the summer for the Tests against South Africa and West Indies. They are the highest numbers ever for an offshore series – about 500,000 viewers in the evenings.

The cricket has had an obvious effect on ratings for the NRL’s first weekend of trials. Numbers are down on last year after the first two nights of trials in Auckland and Gosford although clubs are using mainly reserve grade players.


Channel 7’s voice of sport Bruce McAvaney has been honoured with an AFL life membership to recognise his achievement of calling 20 grand finals. It sits nicely alongside his Order of Australia for service to sports broadcasting and charities.

McAvaney has been previously inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. The 69-year-old has called Olympic Games since Moscow in 1980, the Australian Open tennis and Melbourne Cups.


Dean ‘Bulldog’ Ritchie, Age 54

Daily Telegraph, Weekend Big Sports Breakfast

First job?

Selling Christmas trees at Grace Bros and working in a Chatswood suit hire shop for extra pocket money when in Year 10. I started writing sport stories for the local paper, the North Shore Times, in year 11 at school

Sporting heroes?

Kevin Hastings, Brett Kenny, Mark Ella, Dennis Lillee and Steve Waugh. ‘Horrie’ was my number one – a true childhood idol. Admired Kenny and Ella’s natural brilliance, Lillee’s larrikin side and Waugh’s fierce tenacity.

What team do you follow?

Eastern Suburbs. I used to take my red, white and blue flag to games during the early 1980s. I clearly remember crying when Canterbury’s Steve Gearin scored his famous 1980 grand final try to defeat my Roosters. Damn you, ‘Bubba’. Don’t really follow any side these days.

Did you ever play?

I played rugby union all my life but dabbled in league at school and had a season with Forestville Ferrets in the Manly junior league. During my schoolboy union days I played alongside Scott Gourley, Manoa Thompson, Rod Wishart and Graham Mackay.

How do you spend your days off?

I love everything from pottering around my house to having a few beers, watching some local footy and having a bet.

Career highlights?

Covering footy tours in England, France and New Zealand and around 90 Origin games all around Australia.


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*News Corp websites

Originally published as Media Buzz: Phil Rothfield looks at the latest television, radio and print news in sport

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