THE Newcastle Knights have been blanked from Friday night free-to-air games for the first 20 rounds of the 2013 NRL season and play two of their first three home games on a Monday night but have been compensated by a return to their favoured Sunday afternoon slot.
The 2013 draw was released yesterday and, for the first time, allocates match days for the first 20 rounds.
The Knights begin their season against the Wests Tigers on Monday, March 11, at Hunter Stadium.
Last season the Knights had only eight Sunday games and just one at home, but next year they have 13 in total and five at Turton Road against Canberra (March 31), Cronulla (May 5), Canterbury (May 19), Gold Coast (June 30) and the Roosters (July 28).
Penrith is the only other club not allocated a home or away match on Friday night in the first 20 rounds.
Friday nights garner the biggest TV audience and markets for advertisers.
Channel Nine has the first two picks each round for its Friday night games.
Five Knights games, two played at home and three away, are scheduled to be broadcast on Channel Nine on Sunday afternoon.
When asked yesterday if he was disappointed by the Friday night snub, Knights CEO Matthew Gidley said: ‘‘Not really, as some of our Sunday games will be free-to-air games broadcast on Channel Nine so we’re relatively happy with that outcome.
‘‘There’s still an opportunity to get a Friday night game at home in one of those remaining rounds to be released later in the year.
‘‘We’re hoping we’re in good enough form to put a case forward to possibly host a game in that period.’’
The Knights face Brisbane in round 21 at Hunter Stadium and the match is likely to be played on a Friday night, given Channel Nine’s desire to schedule the Broncos in that timeslot.
Newcastle lobbied the NRL for more Sunday afternoon games and Gidley was satisfied with the result.
‘‘First and foremost we’re happy to host in a family-friendly timeslot,’’ he said.
‘‘Traditionally not only families but all of our supporters enjoy coming out on a Sunday afternoon to support our team, so that was a real highlight for the club.’’
Besides the season-opener against the Tigers, the Knights second home game is scheduled against North Queensland in round three on a Monday night.
This season the Knights defeated the Tigers 32-20 at Hunter Stadium on a Monday night in front of a healthy crowd of 18,637.
‘‘We’re a little disappointed that we have to host both of our mandatory Monday night games in the first two home games this year and I’ve expressed that disappointment to the NRL on behalf of our members,’’ Gidley said.
‘‘Our supporters came out and supported those matches really well this year and it’s the third-highest broadcaster timeslot.
‘‘We had great support for the Tigers game this year and we’re confident our supporters will come out to support those games as well.’’
The Knights will play all teams twice except for traditional rivals Manly (away), Tigers (home), New Zealand Warriors (away), South Sydney (away), Roosters (home) and Parramatta to finish the regular season on Old Boys’ Day at Hunter Stadium.