Rugby League's big night in: NRL return proves a huge box office hit

The NRL's groundbreaking return from its COVID-19 enforced hiatus is being hailed a box office success.

The Parramatta Eels' demolition of the Broncos in Brisbane attracted the biggest domestic television audience for a regular-season game in six years.

And fans were well entertained, with fake crowd noise and new rules throwing up plenty of talking points..  

After a 66 day hiatus, the anticipation was undeniable, although the ambience provided by broadcaster Fox divided opinion.

But for the onlooking New Zealand Warriors' squad, it almost went unnoticed. 

"It kinda felt like you were watching a normal game with a normal crowd there," said skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Another new initiative - the ruck infringement rule - led directly to the first try, and provided several long periods of uninterrupted play that had the Broncos players in particular out on their feet late in the game.

The losers on the night quick to highlight the pitfalls of just one on-field referee

"I'm sure the referee would have been looking at the ruck, so we just need to get some clarity about who's looking after the 10 metres," pointed coach Anthony Seibold.

Whatever the criticisms, the fast-paced spectacle was an NRL marketing success.

An impressive 1.3 million Australians tuned in, marking the highest rating for a regular-season game since 2014.

But it wasn't just Aussies dialling in, with coverage sold to the likes of the United States, where one leading NFL reporter gave the match his tick of approval. 

"Loved it. Athletes colliding into each other at full speed again. Excellent ‘social distancing’ led to the superb try to put @TheParraEels ahead at halftime,” Cam Inman tweeted.

"I blissfully still don’t understand all the rules. [I streamed for the last 20 minutes, once awoken by our cat’s snoring at 3am]."

Rugby League's big night in: NRL return proves a huge box office hit

And on Saturday the Warriors will have their chance to thrill new fans from around the globe when they 'host' the St George Dragons in Gosford.