Another slapstick moment for NRL clubs

Steve Mascord Columnist

By Steve Mascord, Steve Mascord is a Roar Expert


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    It’s difficult for one to make up one’s mind whether it’s Shakespearian or Vaudevillian.

    After months of agitating and lobbying, the NRL clubs manage to take the independence out of the ARL’s independent commission by forcing constitutional change, which will give them two seats on the committee.

    But they continue fighting among themselves to the extent that at the final hurdle, it looks like they’ll vote down their own coup!

    The entire affair is the most compelling proof that the clubs shouldn’t be getting those two seats, even if the people they plan on appointing have no direct connection to them. Ray Dib was a powerful figure in the whole thing and now he’s been voted off his own club’s board.

    Do we really want the entire direction of the sport to be left at the mercy of murky, ego-driven Sydney club politics?

    It’s only going to take two clubs to vote against the reform for it to be torpedoed but then, of course, we’ll be looking for two independent commissioners.

    And the blokes we get could be the same two – Peter V’landis and Glen Selikowitz – but without them owing anything to the clubs. That sounds perfect, actually!

    Or perhaps former Collingwood chief executive Gary Pert will get a reprieve; he didn’t get the required votes from the clubs but now that he’s shown interest, the ARLC could conceivably tap him to become involved after all.

    Let’s not waste time with the perennial argument about the clubs generating the wealth through the TV rights for one competition out of hundreds that are played in Australia each weekend. Sure they do – and they want more wealth.

    The ARLC, on the other hand, is charged with maximising the number of people who watch and play the sport. That’s what should drive a professional sport, not the desire to win championships, pay coaches a squillion and get a new hyperbaric chamber.

    Anyway, the clubs have already squeezed their money out of the NRL. They got what they wanted. Now let the chairman-elect of the ARLC, Peter Beattie, get on with the job of doing what other professional sports do – at least attempt to expand.

    Peter Beattie

    Peter Beattie. (AAP Image/Jane Dempster)

    Flying in the face of that objective to an even greater extent than clubs having two seats on the commission is NSW and Queensland being installed there for all eternity.

    The Country Rugby League, which has comparable playing numbers to NSW (although the Newcastle comp has just defected to the NSWRL apparently), aren’t represented at all. Neither is Victoria, home state of the current NRL champions.

    We’re living in the past – we know that, unable to make up our mind if we’re a suburban or national competition. But do we really want to stay there-here forever?

    One senses that clubs will always threaten to break away – and sometimes will. That’s how rugby league started.

    But the people leading the sport – and I include England’s RFL in this – are the ones with the media contracts and government recognition. The Rugby League International Federation has copyrighted the rules of the sport.

    They are there to lead. If an individual does a poor job, he or she will be out on their ear but there is a responsibility during each person’s tenure at headquarters to leave the sport in a better position than they found it.

    Clubs? Their responsibility is a W each week. Let them bicker among themselves and make all manner of threats.

    But don’t let their noise distract us.

    Steve Mascord
    Steve Mascord

    Steve Mascord has covered rugby league in 15 countries and worked for most media organisations that regularly feature the sport, on both sides of the globe. He started off as an 18-year-old cadet at Australian Associated Press, transferring to the Sydney Morning Herald just in time to go on the last full Kangaroos Tour in 1994. He spent three years at Sydney's Daily Telegraph from 2006 before going freelance at the conclusion of the 2008 World Cup. Steve is the author of the book Touchstones, host of the White Line Fever podcast, partner in international rugby league merchandise start-up Mascord Brownz, and proprietor of, and He is married to Sarah and splits his time between London and Sydney.

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • February 14th 2018 @ 10:28am
      Big Daddy said | February 14th 2018 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      Same as the decision to take SOO to Adelaide.
      It’s not about expansion. Just a token offering to keep the expansonists happy.
      It’s about money.
      Smaller ground – hike the ticket prices up.

      • February 14th 2018 @ 10:39am
        Oingo Boingo said | February 14th 2018 @ 10:39am | ! Report

        I see it as more about disenfranchising loyal fans by slapping them in the face.

        • February 14th 2018 @ 11:20am
          Big Daddy said | February 14th 2018 @ 11:20am | ! Report

          That’s where you have nailed it exactly.
          This is NSW v QLD as far as I am concerned and should be played in those states.
          That’s why we call it state of origin.
          Not Adelaide not perth not Melbourne

    • February 14th 2018 @ 10:51am
      Justin Kearney said | February 14th 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

      David Smith’s demise was one of the worst things that happened to the game. He wasn’t perfect but at least he understood the importance of the game moving forward as one and the need to control the clubs. Grant has a lot to answer for.

    • Roar Guru

      February 14th 2018 @ 10:53am
      Emcie said | February 14th 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

      Considering some clubs struggles to run themselves, the further away they are from the administration the better

      • Roar Guru

        February 14th 2018 @ 1:31pm
        Matt H said | February 14th 2018 @ 1:31pm | ! Report


    • February 14th 2018 @ 11:36am
      RandyM said | February 14th 2018 @ 11:36am | ! Report

      Beattie and Greenberg need to make an announcement in the first half of this year regarding Perth expansion. The cynicism around RL in the country is at an all time high I think. Funny when there is barely any scandals in the news the attention turns to the head office…

    • February 14th 2018 @ 1:14pm
      ferret said | February 14th 2018 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

      Agree with you on this one Steve.

      The last time some powerful clubs threw their weight around it led to SuperLeague (oops sorry, I mentioned the war!)

      If the two Nick’s are driving this, you know the primary (sole?) beneficiaries are going to be the two Nicks.

      I agree with previous comments, that Smith as an outsider could stand back and see the bigger picture. Despite being a national comp (and international with the Warriors) for a long time now, there are those that still seem to think it all stems from about at 10km radius from the Sydney CBD.

      • Roar Guru

        February 14th 2018 @ 1:32pm
        Matt H said | February 14th 2018 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

        And yet at the time, on this very site, David Smith was bashed from pillar to post as not being “Rugby League”.

        • February 14th 2018 @ 1:41pm
          Justin Kearney said | February 14th 2018 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

          Not by me. I met him in Sydney and he was an impressive guy. You could see he was reading the room and was working out the politics. He had uncle Rupert by the middle bits with the new tv deal. This saw the old firm unleash the media wolfpack onto him and he was gone. You got a sense of energy from him. Now we have the good old boys back in charge and we are reaping the dividends.

          • February 14th 2018 @ 2:08pm
            Steve said | February 14th 2018 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

            Interesting words Justin.

            What did you see in Smith tjat was impressive?

            Not bagging you I’m interested as the game I love does seem to be struggling.

            • February 14th 2018 @ 2:30pm
              Justin Kearney said | February 14th 2018 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

              Firstly he wasn’t a leaguie so he had no affiliations to anything and that was clear. We were to be one organisation and not a bunch of self interested cartels.
              Secondly he was absolutely results driven and made it clear one of our goals was not to play second fiddle to any other code. Rugby league was to be number one.
              Thirdly he liked a drink and had a great sense of humour.
              To sum him up he had leadership qualities and was an obviously intelligent man.
              Sort of bloke who’d stand in front of rather than next to or behind Gil from the AFL at a sports conference.
              But nothing prepares you for rugby league politics and nothing can save you when the boys turn on you.
              That’s the impression I got of him over a two day meeting over 4 years ago.
              And yes he had his faults.

              • Roar Guru

                February 14th 2018 @ 4:18pm
                Sleiman Azizi said | February 14th 2018 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

                That was my impression of him just from watching him on the TV.

              • February 14th 2018 @ 4:46pm
                Big Daddy said | February 14th 2018 @ 4:46pm | ! Report

                It’s because he didn’t fit in with the cancer that is NSWRL.
                A lot of good ideas but these other guys had the numbers.

              • February 14th 2018 @ 5:55pm
                ferret said | February 14th 2018 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

                @ Justin, never got a close up on him, like you did, but the points you make came across anyway. As you said he had no allegiance so wasn’t beholden to anyone.

                The two Nick’s make me think we’re heading back to the bad old days.

              • February 14th 2018 @ 6:03pm
                Justin Kearney said | February 14th 2018 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

                So true mate. Beattie has massive challenges in front of him so good luck to him. Finding somebody of Smith’s caliber to take the reins has to be one of them. We’re on the road to nowhere at the moment.

              • February 15th 2018 @ 8:07am
                Oingo Boingo said | February 15th 2018 @ 8:07am | ! Report

                Beattie’s first big challenge will be , pushing Junior Pearce Under the bus and appointing another highly paid , non delivering stooge in his place.

              • February 14th 2018 @ 10:01pm
                Chris Wright said | February 14th 2018 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

                I have to back that up when you look at the “Worst Day in Australian Sport” fiasco. My understanding was just David Smith from the NRL was invited to attend the press conference but he flatly refused until all the codes were represented by their CEO’s.

                And after all initial reports suggest RL was the biggest problem it turned out AFL had a much bigger issue.

              • February 14th 2018 @ 10:03pm
                Justin Kearney said | February 14th 2018 @ 10:03pm | ! Report

                Absolutely correct Chris

        • Roar Guru

          February 14th 2018 @ 4:17pm
          Sleiman Azizi said | February 14th 2018 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

          ‘Not being rugby league’ is just an excuse villagers pull out to justify not understanding change.

    • February 14th 2018 @ 5:14pm
      Mark said | February 14th 2018 @ 5:14pm | ! Report

      The biggest blight on the ARLC has been the veto rights of the NSWRL and QRL

      Sort that mess out and move forward