Welcome to the hot seat, Peter V’landys.
When you step into the role of ARLC chairman after October 30, you are entering the position at a time of great opportunity.
You are able to stamp your authority and really make a difference to the great game of rugby league.
The big question is: will you? Or will it just be more of the same?
I know you’ve only been on the ARLC board since the start of 2018. However, your experience as chief executive of the NSW Harness Racing Club, and now Racing NSW, sees you very well qualified to sit at the pinnacle of rugby league in Australia.
I don’t know which team you go for, but that shouldn’t matter anyway. Your challenge is to make the NRL as successful as you seem to have made Racing NSW.
I love your ambition too. A person who tells the VRC to move the date of the Melbourne Cup thinks big and has great big cojones.
The good news for you is that, while rugby league in Australia has some challenges, the game is still in reasonably good shape. However, you have the opportunity to take it into another golden era like we saw in the ’80s and early ’90s, before the Super League war and all that unpleasantness.
While I know you’ll have a few ideas of your own, I’ve got a list of actions that I reckon could really get things rocking straight away and endear you to league fans across the nation.
Replace Mark Coyne
It was sad last July when former Dragons and Maroons player Mark Coyne resigned from the ARLC. He now needs to be replaced with an ex-player. Ideally it would be someone also in the mould of Wayne Pearce: highly respected and universally popular. There are a fair few options to choose from.
Here are three great options, beginning with Alan Tongue. The ex-Raiders captain is one of the best humans I’ve ever met. He makes me want to be a better man. He spends his time travelling the country – often for the NRL – educating people about domestic violence.
Ruan Sims is my second choice. The recently retired Roosters and Jillaroos front-rower is an awesome human and dedicated to the game. From just south of where you grew up, her brothers also are handy players. She has been pivotal in the growth of women’s rugby league in Australia. We’ll just ignore that she also played union.
Third, Steve Renouf. The Pearl was just an awesome player and universally loved, even when he was scoring on your own team. A proud Murri from Murgon in Queensland, he works for the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, as an ambassador for the Deadly Choices preventative health program.
Help out grassroots rugby league costs
One of the things that is hurting the lower tiers of rugby league in this country is the costs of insurance. Insurance companies assess the risk of injury in our great game as being quite large and their premiums reflect that.
That has caused registration costs at all levels to rise to the point that some people can’t afford to sign up their kids or continue playing themselves.
If the NRL set up their own insurance scheme, this could mitigate these rises and encourage people to sign up to, remain in and return to our game. If things worked out well, the NRL might even make a profit from it, too.
Get a second league side in Brisbane
The person who manages to get a second NRL side in Brisbane should be immortalised in bronze. We know they are the most hardcore fans in the country (deal with it NSW people, it’s true), yet they’ve only got one side to cover a city of 2.3 million.
Just think, two sides in Brisbane doubles the chances of having a side from south East Queensland in the finals each year, with the resultant ratings and advertising revenue that comes with that. Can I suggest that you use an established club – like Redcliffe – with an established supporter base and funds.
Ensure the NRL draw is done fairly
Over that past few seasons, the major emphasis for the scheduling of the games during the home-and-away season has been to ensure the best-rating sides were scheduled in the free-to-air spots. Due to the primacy of the broadcast deal, I’m OK with that.
However, can you please do something about ensuring that sides don’t have to play with only five-day turnarounds between games, especially not with travel involved. Please get some people at NRL HQ who are smart enough to give the broadcasters what they want, while also not handicapping sides by making them play without a fair break, often against well rested sides.
Guarantee consistency and transparency from the match review committee
Please Peter, can you please get the match review committee process run by people who are able to lay charges consistently and fairly? There were so many instances this season where one player got a big charge laid for something another player got a slap on the wrist for.
While we punters couldn’t tell the difference between one shoulder charge/crusher tackle/eye gouge/spear tackle and another, the MRC came up with often massively different verdicts. It is this part of the judiciary system being a mystery that Sam Burgess was referring too, not the actual panels hearing the cases.
Remove on-field trainers
I have been on the back of the current NRL operations manager Nathan McGuirk for years now to actually enforce the rules as set out in the NRL’s own operations manual and properly curb the access each team’s trainers have to the playing field.
Under McGuirk’s watch they have been allowed to be on the field more often than not. This culminated in the Roosters’ trainer interfering with the play during the NRL grand final. This made the whole organisation look stupid and incompetent for ignoring the warnings for years that just such a thing could happen. You don’t even need to change the rules, just get a new operations manager who will actually enforce the current ones properly.
While I’m sure we’ll come up with a few more improvements that can be made to benefit our great game, getting on with these ASAP will instantly yield great results and usher in your reign with a wave of popularity and optimism.
Good luck, Peter. We are all behind you.