NRL Grand Final Week: The Murdoch Express


All aboard the Murdoch express. On your left will be our Sydney Daily Telegraph journalists poking and prodding you. On your right will be our Melbourne Herald Sun journalists shouting jingoistic messages into your ear, urging you to stand up for yourselves. Final destination: we will all be simultaneously sitting on our couches at 5pm on Sunday evening watching the NRL Grand Final with passion flowing through our veins.


Unfortunately, some Melbournians have remained ignorant to the conductor’s plans and taken their ride a little too seriously.


Take, for example, Sean Wood of Geelong who wrote into the Herald Sun’s Letters page this week stating:


“I can only agree that the levels of vitriol and contempt bordering on outright hatred displayed by some in the NSW media is staggering.”


What Wood needs to realise is the political economy of the National Rugby League. Melbournians can cry foul all they want about the NRL mistreating the Storm, or the Daily Telegraph running “vitriolic” campaigns against the Storm, only to be countered by the Herald Sun. The fact is they are all bedfellows. News Ltd owns them all. If it weren’t for the “vitriolic media” and Murdoch’s Moolah there wouldn’t be a Melbourne Storm. Storm skipper Cameron Smith acknowledged this fact in his press conference this week, saying “our game’s run by the media…”


So if you’re a Victorian feeling a little hot under the collar, please put your News Ltd newspaper down on the coffee table, take a step back so you can keep a critical distance, and recognise the fact that you’re simply being taken for a ride on the Murdoch express. Sydney won’t win. Melbourne won’t lose. Rugby League will be the winner.



Meanwhile, speaking of League, The Age’s Richard Hinds wrote an article on Tuesday describing Melbourne Storm players as “anonymous”, and backed it up on Thursday by dubbing them the “great unwatched.” Returning to the political economy aspect, is this simply a case of a Fairfax journalist unwilling to recognise the game’s inroads in Victoria?


Sure, the Storm may not be mainstream, but in Wallerstein’s World Systems terms they have moved from the periphery to the semi-periphery within just eleven years of existence. The club has a strong media presence, and not just in Murdoch’s Herald Sun. They have lead all television news bulletins this week, while during the season they have had Monday night games broadcast live on Triple M along with a weekly hour on SEN. A 2008 Roy Morgan Research poll found that Storm has 769,000 supporters, second only to the Broncos. Hinds himself mentioned that last years Grand Final peaked at over 800,000 viewers in Melbourne, and since Brian “flip” Waldron took charge their jersey has become worth as much as any other NRL club’s. Their most recent Olympic Park crowds have been in the range of 14,000 – on par with the Melbourne Victory’s final game at the same venue. Few would dare call the Victory “anonymous.”


As a basketball fan who has to wait until Round 6 for any TV coverage and has to read interstate newspapers to get a decent grasp on what’s happening in the league, Hinds’ comment that the Storm are “anonymous” would be laughable if it didn’t feel like such a slap in the face.