Enough is enough, it’s time for Gallop to go

Matthew O’Neill Roar Rookie

By Matthew O’Neill, Matthew O’Neill is a Roar Rookie

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    National Rugby League CEO David Gallop at a press conference at NRL headquarters. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

    National Rugby League CEO David Gallop at a press conference at NRL headquarters. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

    After yet another player controversy, this time involving the Penrith club, it’s time for the leader of the NRL to be held accountable. No sport has had to endure the negative off-field headlines that the NRL has under the reign of David Gallop since 2002.

    Despite this string of incidents, never at any stage has Gallop been made accountable or held to his responsibility for the image of the code. However, he has regularly been credited with the game’s successes, including record crowd figures five years ago.

    As Chief Executive of the NRL, Gallop is the figure responsible for the actions of the sixteen NRL clubs and the players in those clubs, and for the performance of match officials, crowd figures, sponsorship, popularity, and the like.

    But his responses to player misbehaviour have been inconsistent, reactive, and at times hysterical.

    He has given no impression of leadership on the issue, and clubs haven’t felt empowered to tackle problems themselves.

    When the NRL de-registered Greg Bird and Todd Carney from playing the 2009 season, it was one of the NRL’s harsher penalties, but the ineffectiveness of the response is now seen with each weekend bringing a new drama.

    One of the reasons drinking and anti-social behaviour amongst rugby league players generates so many headlines is because a reactive Gallop has regularly allowed molehills to be turned into mountains.

    Leading player representatives have previous highlighted this apparent willingness to make a public show on player behaviour issues, rather than being tough but fair.

    In the case of Dane Tilse, who was banned from the game in 2005 after a university dormitory rampage, Rugby League Professionals’ Association president Butterfield questioned whether Tilse had received “procedural fairness” because of the “enormous pressure [on the Knights] from the NRL.”

    Similarly, when Sonny Bill Williams was arrested for relieving himself behind a tree in 2007, Gallop gave the sort of running commentary expected from a talkback host, rather than the constructive comments of a leader.

    “He is inches from enough is enough … he needs to be placed on a formal program to deal with his problems,” he said.

    If Gallop left the problem to the clubs, then the hysteria and fanfare wouldn’t be so significant or dramatic, and the clubs could deal with the problems effectively.

    People will blame the newspapers but when they turn to Gallop for a comment, he delivers with interest.

    The punishment of Manly’s Brett Stewart was another example of Gallop’s hysteria.

    Stewart, at the most, should have been stood down for one game, only to clear the air. Four weeks – which Gallop admitted was punishment for Stewart’s drunkenness – was far too much.

    Stewart has pleaded not guilty in court.

    The Australian way has always been innocent before guilty. But in the NRL, it seems it’s guilty before being innocent.

    Gallop’s inconsistency is not just in matters of player behaviour.

    The handling of the Bulldogs two points issue – in which they were stripped for having fourteen players on the field – took over four weeks to ‘resolve’. But a precedent was set by Gallop in 2004, 2007 and 2008 that fines, not loss of points, are the punishment for an extra player on the field.

    Phil Gould in the Sun Herald more than a week ago stated that the Bulldogs should be fined and that in no way was the incident a form of cheating.

    Rugby league is the best sport in the world, but it’s also the worst administered.

    The game needs a vibrant, strong and positive leader with vision, but also someone with an understanding of the game’s traditions in New South Wales and Queensland who can take the game into a new era and stand up to the vested media interests clouding the game.

    But Gallop hasn’t been able to stand up to these interests, seen in poorly handled contract negotiations at all levels, the under-selling of the game’s TV and new media rights, and not allowing the game to have full reach through radio and free to air television in Australia.

    For off-field incidents that bring the game into disrepute, an independent judiciary should be set up to decide suspensions, much like the way the judiciary decides penalties for high tackles.

    The onus to make decisions should be taken away from the clubs, unless they break the internal code of conduct, like the case of former Bulldog lock Reni Maitua. The leader of the game certainly shouldn’t be making comments. He should be leaving things to the clubs and the independent judiciary panel.

    Players today live in fantasyland from a young age. Player welfare is extremely important. But of greater importance is the leadership within our game.

    The Penrith incident is the latest example of how the leadership is failing young players, and should be the final straw.

    Changes must now take place.

    Matthew O’Neill is an expert columnist with www.rleague.com.

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    The Crowd Says (24)

    • April 24th 2009 @ 7:40am
      oikee said | April 24th 2009 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      Yes then the next bloke in charge will inherit the problems. Then you can write a report on the next guy telling us enough is enough. Get over it dude, Gallop is doing a great job in charge of some of the most troubled group of young teenagers in Australia. I read a report the other day about a country who is introducing rugby league so they can keep there youth out of trouble. Rugby league is a great leveller for youth. You are going to have a few bad eggs, but this is not a reason to give up on these guys, they know the’ve done wrong, in which we need to encourage these lads to correct themselves.

      It seems like you would rather just throw them to the sharks. Its a very hard job to deal with wayward youth. At least rugby league can help these kids become better men, eventually, hopefully.

    • April 24th 2009 @ 9:35am
      Brett McKay said | April 24th 2009 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      This seems to unfairly blame Gallop for decisions made by the NRL as a body. Realistically, Gallop is just the messenger, the front man. Matthew, if you can name a suitable replacement then I’m all ears (well eyes, I’d have to read it), but otherwise what would be the point of change just for change’s sake?

    • April 24th 2009 @ 9:38am
      Col the Bear said | April 24th 2009 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      David gallop will always have the problem of being associated with the company that run the game..people will always see this..As Arko was always seen as Manlys great white hope for years, and still puts his 2 cents in how the club should be run..and Humphries before him, Tigers wasn’t it…

      Still it could be worse we could Have John Ribot running the game…he’d have a team playing out of hong Kong before you know it.. 🙂 No!! thats a rumour I don’t want to start… it might happen…

    • April 24th 2009 @ 10:22am
      oikee said | April 24th 2009 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      Dead right Col, unlike Europe where most countries dislike each other, we have a brilliant comp here in oz and New Zealand between states. Besides which Gallop has allowed the clubs to deal with issues, the clubs seem to be doing a better job now.
      I am sure the young Penrith guy is tottally annoyed with himself for letting the club down. The young guy from PNG now gets a chance to take his spot. Thats the price you pay these days, anyone who does something stupid is easily replaced. Even more incentive to keep out of misceif without hanging young blokes. 🙂

    • April 24th 2009 @ 10:23am
      JohnQ said | April 24th 2009 @ 10:23am | ! Report

      Gallop is indeed a media stooge, having come through News Ltd ranks. And the media love his modus operandi of knee-jerk reactions, moral lectures, and of inflaming situations to give negative press the maximum exposure.

    • April 24th 2009 @ 10:26am
      True Tah said | April 24th 2009 @ 10:26am | ! Report

      Matthew

      I think its a bit far to blame Gallop for players misbehaving.

      It was hardly as if Gallop was pouring grog down the player in questions throat and egging them on was he?

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