Mr Smith not a generic choice for a new era

Luke Doherty Roar Guru

By Luke Doherty, Luke Doherty is a Roar Guru

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    Dave Smith may not have been a rugby league man, but that was a strength. (AAP Image/Damian Shaw)

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    It all seems so obvious now. Why wouldn’t commission Chairman John Grant, a successful businessman in his own right, turn to a man cut from similar cloth to ensure rugby league doesn’t waste the biggest financial windfall the game has ever seen?

    That man is ‘Aussie’ Dave Smith. Well, he’s Welsh really, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

    In his last anonymous moments, in regards to recognition from sports fans, he sat in a room full of journalists, all frantically googling who exactly Dave was and what it is he’d done.

    In regards to sport, he said he didn’t go to an NRL game last season and spent six months on a plane. Exactly where he was going and why it took six months to get there wasn’t made clear.

    In regards to business, perhaps a slightly more relevant measure of his suitability for the role, he currently heads an international banking division spanning 10 countries and employing over 1500 staff.

    Lloyds International saw fit to place around $50 billion worth of assets in his care. That is an extraordinary amount of money for anyone still wondering.

    Rugby league never looked so small in comparison to those figures.

    It wouldn’t matter if Dave, as he said he wanted to be known, had mistaken rugby league for netball on the television. It wasn’t why he was hired.

    He’s a sports fan and an admirer of rugby league. That’s enough for now.

    All that matters at this stage of rugby league’s life is that he meets at least two of the objectives set out in the ARLC’s five-year strategic plan released in late October.

    The ARLC has made available $200m for investment in key projects and in the next five years they want central revenue to have doubled to more than $300m.

    In other words, the game has finally positioned itself for an unprecedented period of growth financially while still possessing an ability to implement key infrastructure and they don’t want to mess it up.

    Who better to choose than someone familiar with handling large sums of money?

    Different levels of NRL management can handle fan and community engagement projects. Clubs can drive memberships and tend to their own backyard with a little bit of help from head office. But managing rugby league’s billion dollar baby was always going to take a different kind of character.

    His biggest problem looks like being on the PR front.

    Not being able to start until February 1st next year, after his commitments to his current employer end, is somewhat of a blow.

    The game will be accused of being in limbo until his re-emergence at rugby league headquarters.

    How a man with no previous experience in sports administration reacts to player misbehaviour is also one of the great unknowns.

    John Grant has been the face of the game since the departure of David Gallop. Now, Grant insists, Smith will assume that role.

    He’ll be the one on television, in print and on radio answering the tough questions.

    Money might be spent in important and innovative ways, but if Smith can’t sell himself to the average fan, then the backlash over minor things tends to become major.

    Yesterday, he couldn’t speak in much detail about his plans for the game, not wanting to appear unfocussed on his current role. Still, he handled the trickier moments with nifty footwork.

    It was enough to get him past the introduction and back into the safety of familiar surrounds.

    The real test will come throughout the grind of the 2013 season when players misbehave, officials make blunders and clubs find new ways to push the limits of the rule book.

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    The Crowd Says (37)

    • November 24th 2012 @ 3:45am
      Billo said | November 24th 2012 @ 3:45am | ! Report

      If David Smith has any sense he’ll delegate the running of the game itself to Shane Mattiske, who is far better equipped to handle playing issues.
      Smith couldn’t distinguish a shoulder charge from a field goal, and there’s no reason why he should.
      He’s been brought in to develop the NRL as a major business, and if the leaguies have any sense, that’s what they’ll let him do.
      There will be plenty of others in the NRL who can handle the problems arising when a player is caught urinating in a cul-de-sac.
      Part of Gallop’s problem when he was in charge was that he seemed determined to speak out about every minor player issue of that sort.
      Smith needs someone to tell him to avoid that approach.

      • November 24th 2012 @ 7:29am
        oikee said | November 24th 2012 @ 7:29am | ! Report

        I posted before i read your post Billo, yes good points. I had the same gut feeling.

      • Roar Guru

        November 24th 2012 @ 10:14am
        Luke Doherty said | November 24th 2012 @ 10:14am | ! Report

        Couldn’t agree more Billo. Delegation will be key.

    • November 24th 2012 @ 3:51am
      Johnno said | November 24th 2012 @ 3:51am | ! Report

      Interesting choice this for multiple reasons.

      He clearly has serious street cred in the corporate World as he is managing some massive accounts in the banking World .

      He is a working class lad not born into a rich family he has earned his way tot he top. Has a background of rugby union,.
      He played rugby union until he was 40, but not professional but at what level I don’t know.

      His wife is from the north of England. He has said this week he bas been travelling all year, and admits to not being a walking encyclopaedia of the game.

      He was also an an engineer in the army , helping to protect England against the IRA .

      So, the man has had a really interesting life no question, and is a high level business man no question.

      I look a 4 people and try to justify if this is the right decision.

      JON, Kristina Keneally, Dave Gallop, Frank Lowy.

      JON never played elite level rugby or coached it was an ex banker, then became head of the ARU.
      But JON went to st joseph’s college in other words joey’s, . School that has produced more Wallabies than any other school in OZ. So JON had been surrounded by rugby all his life in reality then childhood and adulthood.

      Krisintina Kenally ex NSW premier. She was born in the states , USA dad, aussy mum. She is now CEO of the NBL. Never coached, played or administered basketball before at an elite level. But she did play basketball for her school team. And born in 1968 she obviously would of been aware of the basketball craze, and played it in USA growing up and loved it, so was familiar with the sport.

      Dave Gallop born in 1965 went to Canberra Grammar first sports rugby, cricket, . But he was growing up in canberra when rugby league took off and the green machine got on a roll , so he also immersed himself int the game as a fan, just didn’t play it.

      Frank Lowy never played , or coached at an elite level , but was originally from Europe, was President of Hakaoh club during the glory days for Hakoah, so he understood soccer intimately.

      So maybe you don’t need to be a current worker in that sport.

      With this man;s background , wales etc, and he played rugby at some level until he was 40. Yud think he would be better suited tot he ARU CEO job. He also reveled he took a pay cut to take this job so he must have some desire for a challenge then.

      Many soccer fans in OZ were unhappy , with Ben Buckley’s apparent lack of connection with the game or interest I hope this ma’s passion levels are there,. As he hasn’t been int he sport it will take a good year to get knowledge on it.

      For me Dave Gallop took a while to settle in too, so there is hope. I would have gone with a local with a rugby league background myself, . JON also did CEO for FFA in soccer with no background in soccer.

      This man is very global and Worldly . He in his previous job was travelling the World. One good thing is he will feel no attachment or emotion when making decisions, or be undermined by factional agendas and politics of the game as he doesn’t owe any sections of the game anything.

    • November 24th 2012 @ 7:23am
      oikee said | November 24th 2012 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      If it all goes pair-shaped, maybe he can stay on the board of director’s as a commissioner. He seems to be the right type for this job.
      Shane Mattikse can be the front man if it does not work out.
      In the meantime i feel safe with him in charge, i always thought my cat could be the CEO, fronting up to the media is the hardest job he will have, his banking skills will hopefully keep our money safe. That was a worry.

      So far he has said all the right things, loves “Stste of Origin”, not state of the origin. Called us the ‘rugby league family’, i put a cuppa on after hearing that.
      Looking forward to being part of the greatest game in Australia. Cant wait to get stuck in, wonderful.

      Now about that Torso rule and salary cap rorting, come-on, and stadiums, what is happening..,,…..,,..lalallla

      • Roar Guru

        November 24th 2012 @ 10:16am
        Luke Doherty said | November 24th 2012 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        You’re right he seems to be the perfect fit for a commish if indeed he doesn’t end up liking the spotlight Oikee. Surprised he wasn’t on there already given his background.

    • November 24th 2012 @ 8:27am
      Crashy said | November 24th 2012 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      Can you see this bloke putting up a public face after a string of atrocitities next season. Not sure why he has taken on this role. I think it’s hilarious that he’s a staunch rugby union man.

      • November 24th 2012 @ 9:29am
        Crosscoder said | November 24th 2012 @ 9:29am | ! Report

        As atrocities this year were few and far between Crashy,his future appearancs on such matters, may in fact be quite minimal.

        I do suggest with his worldy background as a child in Wales,his experience in the Army,any player who does cross his path.,may not like him when he is angry.Especially if they are throwing quokkas around oops!.

        His wife is a rl supporter from the North of England.I am sure she will keep him on the straight and narrow,and he did describe at his press conference”the greatest game of all “for his new position.So his so called staunch position, has already been rather watered down.

        There are staunch rl people involved in ru,eg Dr M Raftery,Phil Blake,John Muggleton.You do your best for your new employer or you darn well should..

        If Mr Smith or Davo ensures the game grows as per the strategic plan, increases funding in large lumps,gets the big end of town involved ,increases participation rates greatly in all states,it will indeed be hilarious this was a achieved by a non rl exec.The code will be lauging.

      • Roar Guru

        November 24th 2012 @ 10:19am
        Luke Doherty said | November 24th 2012 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        He may just stun us all in that regard. He couldn’t / didn’t want to say much yesterday – but yep it’s one of the great unknowns. He’ll probably be awkward at first and then grow into that part of it. Then again – hopefully he doesn’t have much to do in that area. Fingers crossed!

    • November 24th 2012 @ 9:02am
      katzilla said | November 24th 2012 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      In the Herald they’re saying he didn’t know when asked who Cameron Smith and Jonathon Thurston are. Well they asked the wrong question.
      I guarantee you he knows who SBW is.

      • November 24th 2012 @ 9:33am
        Crosscoder said | November 24th 2012 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        Code in crisis katzilla. It’s on a downward spira,I tell ye .He knoweth not the names of the high profile players.
        This will effect his exec abitly to run the game.Yawn.

        SBW doesn’t even know thet code he is playing next, and the media laps it up like cats to a saucer of milk.

      • November 24th 2012 @ 10:45am
        Really?? said | November 24th 2012 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        The SMH (or DT) would ask stupid questions like that, not a half decent sports journalist amongst them. I sometimes wonder if either of those papers even like rugby league or just like putting everything the NRL/ARLC does down.

    • November 24th 2012 @ 10:20am
      Worlds Biggest said | November 24th 2012 @ 10:20am | ! Report

      Agree with Billo, Mattiske should look after all the operational stuff while Smith looks after all business aspects. I thought Weidler’s question regarding Smith not being the first choice candidate was tacky and disrespectful. Smith is a highly accomplished businessman and didn’t deserve that cheap shot. Smith handled it well I thought. The NRL are lucky to secure a guy of this calibre.

      • November 24th 2012 @ 10:42am
        Johnno said | November 24th 2012 @ 10:42am | ! Report

        No surprises there World’s biggest.
        Danny Wiedler and this bloke are and live in 2 totally different worlds , especially intellectual, as well as life experience. We know which one wins the tacky award or I’m the bigger bogan award, not Dave , but definately Danny lol

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