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I know there is not much detail lately with the Channel 9 rugby union team. As all five Australian Super Rugby sides returned to training two days ago. There is nearly one month left before the season starts.
So the first match will begin on Friday 19th February 2021. Just five days after the Daytona 500 takes place. When the Reds take on the Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium. State v State rivalry from New South Wales and Queensland. Just a different view on Channel 9 & Stan Sport.
The schedule is all set for this upcoming moment. Set your DVRs if you are unable to watch on TV or catch up later via 9Now/Stan. When the new era of Australian Rugby on TV begins. A free to air first is a must have which Rugby Australia listened at last. Bravo to Chairman Hamish McLennan. And outgoing CEO Rob Clarke. With Andy Marinos taking over Rob’s spot shortly.
We are all covered with the timetables and where to tune in. But we do not know who will be the main commentary team. That is still yet unknown. So does the launch of the new Stan Sport subscription content.
There is about two locked in this new regime. Murray Shaw will control the off-air work as the main boss. While Andrew Swain comes in from Fox Sports. Not only he will commentate secondary matches on Stan. Such as Super Rugby, Wallaroos & Shute Shield. But will be the senior producer for the important games on Nine. It is confirmed on his twitter page.
Then we dive into the main announcing and hosting team. Nine/Stan has not officially finalised this portion. But the main caller candidate should not be difficult to pick. We will not go for Greg Clark or Gordon Bray. They are both respected callers for sure. But we need a new face that will carry their legacy. And his name is Sean Maloney. A young face who knows the game inside out. As well as adding some entertainment flavour too.
Nine/Stan moves towards looking at an abundance of analysts out there. It is quite a lot from the Fox Sports/Network 10 talent pool. I can tell you Matthew Burke will not come here. Due to his contract presenting sports news on 10. But talking about Sonny Bill Williams is an exciting marquee pick. That is good right when SBW has a reputation of playing both codes. And would be perfect to provide insight for their usual league coverage.
SBW may not be the league guy out there who can do union on Nine/Stan. Allana Ferguson is another hinted pick. Despite having a league playing background. But she has trialled for the Australian 7s women’s union team. Before injuries forced her to leave the field for good. She since appeared on Nine’s league coverage & Sunday Footy Show. And she was praised for her analytical IQ. Mainly coming from a female playing perspective.
We would not mind Allana hopping over to Union on Nine/Stan. Might not exactly be NRL as it was. When drawing back from her playing days. But Allana can translate the athleticism and talents within this code. And that will encourage females pick up a ball. In which is what Nine/Stan first stated. After they won the rights off Fox Sports & Ten on a three-year deal.
Drew Mitchell appeared on Sports Sunday several times last year. Since he was made let go by Fox Sports after the 2019 World Cup. And he is still young after a few years in retirement. He has yet to make comments about this new venture.
But it looks like Drew will fit into their plans perfectly. While Tim Horan liked an article within Nine’s newspaper arm. It is about rumours of finalising their own rugby team. Tim has a World Cup to his name before in 1999. And is passionate about rugby union in this country. In which is why Nine/Stan wants Tim Horan on their side.
And Nine has linked to other pundits before the start of 2021. Such as Adam Ashley-Cooper who has commitments with LA Giltinis. The same goes to fellow Giltinis coach in Stephen Hoiles. Despite appearing every week with Drew on the Aussie Rugby Show. I do expect them to appear on Nine/Stan. But via freelance.
They also mentioned Andrew Mehrtens in the mix. Paul Cully first called it when Argentina beat the All Blacks in November 2020. Mehrts is an ex-All Black much like SBW. And is a Sydneysider at present with his business ventures. He might not be a marquee pick like Drew, Tim and SBW. He would play a part on Nine/Stan during the big games v All Blacks. And maybe when some NZ Super Rugby teams come here.
So Nine/Stan is banking on quality and quantity regarding pundits. Seems that they will not look to hire some from their previous coverage in 2011-12. It is now more flexible since they have the exclusive access in this code. Rule out George Gregan and Cameron Williams. While Andrew Slack retired from the media in 16’.
They would look at their own talent in James Bracey and Erin Molan. But they have their own usual workloads. Someone dedicated to his code would help. Enter Nick McArdle. He too was also booted from Fox with Drew before the 2020 season. After he presented their coverage on Fox for 12-13 years. It is about time that Nine/Stan will hire Nick. At least he is the true face of rugby union inside out.