The Roar
The Roar


Fans should stop wasting their time asking the NRL to lift their game

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1st August, 2019
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People! Please calm down. All of this outrage and righteous indignation aimed at the National Rugby League administration is a total waste of your time.

We’ve been through this already this year, and last year, and the year before, and the year before that too.

I have a strong suspicion that those tasked with the day-to-day operations of the NRL have zero interest in your opinions or outrage. That they don’t care how offensive you find their inconsistency or give a flying expletive that you think they aren’t competent. That they don’t care how much overwhelming evidence you have to back all of that up.

Go ahead! Continue to plead, beg, demand, petition, request, beseech, implore or entreat NRL HQ to pick up their game.

But I think you are screaming into the void.

They don’t work for you. You are not their client.

I think that we all need to come to terms with the fact that the National Rugby League is not primarily a sporting competition, it’s an entertainment product. The whole thing seemingly revolves around the massive broadcast deals and sponsorships.

Fireworks in Suncorp Stadium

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

These are billion-dollar concerns that far outweigh the minor issues that we fans, players, coaches and club administrators have about regarding the inconsistencies and imbalances in on-field decisions, MRC charges, judiciary suspensions and scheduling.


Right now, there are masses of indignation, disbelief and anger about how NRL HQ is running the game.

However, that is situation normal. It seems we’ve all been getting upset about the same sort of issues constantly for years and nothing has improved. It has arguably got worse.

We’ve huffed and we’ve puffed at NRL HQ, but their house is double brick, steel-reinforced and triple glazed.

Right now, I feel that no one at NRL HQ at Moore Park seems to care how outrageous it is that Nic Cotric got sent off and suspended while Jake Trbojevic did not suffer either fate.

Nick Cotric spear tackles Tim Lafai.

Nick Cotric was sent off for this spear tackle on Tim Lafai. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

I feel that they don’t give a toss that Jared Maxwell was the video referee responsible for both of those calls, yet will continue uninterrupted in his role. Meanwhile, Chris Butler, Chris Sutton, Clayton Sharpe and Adam Cassidy got dropped in the wake of the Eels-Warriors game over a couple of iffy penalties and a forward pass call that was 50/50 at worst. How can it be cool to brush us off for being #refsfault-ers but then dump a whole squad of officials?

I feel that the NRL clearly don’t care how dreadful it looks that George Burgess got nine weeks while Josh McGuire twice got nothing for offences that most of us can’t tell the difference between.

I feel that they aren’t bothered that the draw is imbalanced in terms of free-to-air broadcast games and short turnarounds.


I don’t feel that they think it is a problem that referees appear to be selected for big matches at least partially because they award fewer penalties than their colleagues, not for their ability to enforce the rules of the game.

I think NRL HQ is quite happy for Graham Annesley to front up each week to spin each new on-field inconsistency and inaction despite him – at least earlier in the season – being oblivious to how integral slowing down the ruck is to success in the modern game.

Gold Coast Titans CEO Graham Annesley

(AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

The identity of those on the Match Review Committee (MRC) that is continually making bizarrely polar decisions is totally hidden from us. Go on, try finding out who they are. While you’re at it, try finding the MRC’s operational guidelines. Good luck with that.

Now try finding the NRL Operations manual online. Since people like me started actually reading it and realising that the NRL were only enforcing bits of it – such as the coaches’ attendance at the broadcasters’ press conferences, and not stopping the blatant on-field coaching by blue shirt trainers – I can’t find it anymore.

And why would what is basically a private company put out their internal guides if they’re used to expose failures?

I think it is clear that we all just need to come to terms with the realities of our lot in regards to the NRL.

As a supporter, our roles in the grand scheme things are:

  • To switch on our TV and watch the games;
  • To buy a pay TV or streaming subscription;
  • To buy a club membership;
  • To turn up to the game;
  • To be devoted to NSW/QLD and to despise NSW/QLD;
  • Not question how the game is run or by whom;
  • And to shut up and sit down – in our seat at the stadium and in front of the NRL broadcast of our choice.

It has become clear to me that no amount of reasoning or yelling at NRL HQ will change those realities or get them to address their administrative failures.

The only way I can see the present realities of the National Rugby League possibly changing is if the ARLC Commissioners decide to get involved and do something about it.

As you may know, in 2012 when the ARL corporate entity was handed over to the new Australian Rugby League Commission, a whole bunch of commissioners were appointed.

The ARLC actually has a constitution and a framework for its operation, but good luck trying to read them without a login – and you aren’t going to get one; it’s not your company.


You can see the select excerpts they’ve released of it here if you like.

The initial commissioners were officially appointed with the sanction of the 16 clubs, along with the Queensland and New South Wales Rugby Leagues. However, the Commission now appoints any replacements themselves.

The ARLC commissioners clearly have the power to address and rectify administrative and operational failings at NRL HQ. In fact, the NRL website states it is their job to do so:

The ARLC is the governing body for rugby league in Australia. It sets the overall strategic direction for the game and works to ensure that the administration across all levels of rugby league can meet the demands of being a modern, professional and well governed sport.

The current commissioners are as follows:

  • Peter Beattie, current chairman and former premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie.
  • Professor Megan Davis – a professor of law at the University of New South Wales and runs their Indigenous Law Centre.
  • Dr Gary Weiss – a highly qualified lawyer and extremely experienced businessman.
  • Tony McGrath – a former partner at KPMG and the co-founder, partner and co-chairman of McGrathNicol, a restructuring and advisory firm.
  • Amanda Laing – a very experienced senior counsel who has worked with Australian Consolidated Press, PBL Media, Nine Entertainment Co., as well as Telstra and Foxtel.
  • Peter V’landys – the chief executive and a board member of Racing New South Wales.
  • Wayne Pearce – a total legend of the game.
  • and of course one vacant commissioner position following the recent resignation of Mark Coyne.
ARL Commission Chairman Peter Beattie speaks to the media

Peter Beattie. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

These are all clearly superbly accomplished individuals.


I have three questions for all of them:

  • Do you actually think the current state of affairs is acceptable and that the current NRL administration is adequately meeting the requirement of being a modern, professional and well-governed sport?
  • Are you okay that the organisation you lead is constantly held up for derision from fans?
  • Do you take seriously that you are ultimately responsible for how the game is run, and therefore it is you – not Todd Greenberg or anyone else – who should be held to account for these issues?

I certainly hope the commissioners are meeting and planning an overhaul of the NRL HQ management. That they are industriously working on our behalf to ensure that the NRL does, in fact, become a modern, professional and well-governed sport.

So if you feel that you must demand action, I’d suggest that you address your concerns directly to the ARLC commissioners themselves, and ask them to please use their powers to improve the governance of the sport we love.

Stop bothering to bring your concerns and complaints to NRL HQ as that clearly has no meaningful, lasting effect.