21 Dec 2009

Rugby League more watched than Aussie Rules for the first time ever

12:07 pm on 21 December 2009

Rugby League has become the sporting equivalent of a train wreck, while it can be horrific off the field, on the field it has proved impossible for Australian viewers to look away.

The code has tested the patience of punters and administrators with a litany of off-field misdemeanours this year, capped by the arrest on drugs charges of Newcastle prop Danny Wicks last week.

However at the end of a horror year comes potentially the greatest sign that the game is more popular than ever, for the first time in history, it has outrated Aussie Rules nationally.

In 2009, rugby league claimed an aggregate television audience on free-to-air and pay-TV of 128.5 million compared to AFL's 124.3 million.

The figures take into account all fixtures televised, including rugby league's State of Origin series as well as the AFL's pre-season NAB Cup.

And much of the damage was done in Sydney.

Despite an annus-horribilis off the field, league attracted a 12 per cent increase in viewers in Sydney, helped no doubt by the success of Parramatta last season.

And alarmingly for the AFL, and its expansion franchise in the city's west, there was a 19.5 per cent ratings drop in Sydney over 2009, as the Swans struggled.

The figures come on the back of another sorry saga for the NRL, the drug-supply allegations against one of its players, which will mean the code will finish the year as it started it, in controversy.