NRL: The end of Monday Night Football

By Dale Budge

Tonight's NRL clash between the Parramatta Eels and St George Illawarra Dragons has little riding on the result but the contest will still hold a place in NRL history.

The Eels and Dragons cannot make the NRL finals but they will play in the final ever game of Monday night football with the concept scrapped from next season.

For the past 10 seasons Monday night has played host to one NRL game a week but clubs have struggled to attract live crowds on a school and work night in recent times. The television audiences have been strong enough to see the concept survive for a decade but with the renegotiated deal featuring Thursday night fixtures, the decision was made to cancel Monday nights from 2017.

Having initially been used in the 1980s Monday night football made a comeback in 2007 with traditional rivals the Roosters and Rabbitohs featuring in the first Monday match of the season.

The Warriors played their first Monday night game midway through the 2007 season when they lost to the Parramatta Eels in Sydney. They have featured in 10 Monday night fixtures over the past decade - winning four of them.

Most memorable Monday night games

Eels v Warriors 2007
The Eels won the game 30-6 but the match will be remembered for the game where giant Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei had a shocker. He made a number of handling errors and lost confidence, prompting the Eels to continue to target him with kicks. Vatuvei admitted that even years later that night still haunts him.

Storm v Warriors 2011
The Warriors collected their first Monday night win in beating the Storm at Olympic Park and consequently putting an end to the Storm's 10 match unbeaten record at home. It was also the first time a Monday night game was been played on ANZAC Day.

Roosters v Rabbitohs 2012
The opening match of the season for these two sides saw the Roosters produce a miracle come from behind win. Anthony Minichiello scored a try with 30 seconds left on the clock to steal victory after it appeared the Rabbitohs would get the competition points.

Rabbitohs v Roosters 2012
Same teams but in the corresponding fixture later in the season. The Rabbitohs this time snared the great escape scoring back-to-back tries with less than two minutes left on the clock to get revenge for their opening round loss in similar fashion to their great rivals.

Eels v Dragons 2012
A record 45,000-strong crowd turned up for the final Monday night game of the season as retiring players Nathan Hindmarsh, Luke Burt, Ben Hornby and Dean Young bid farewell to their respective careers. The match had been scheduled for Parramatta Stadium but was moved to ANZ Stadium to cater for the large crowd.

- NZ Herald

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