When Peter V’landys survived a scandal of ethics that dragged him through the seven fiery stages of hell, he announced himself as a man who could possibly survive to lunchtime in rugby league administration.
The Racing NSW CEO has just been unveiled as the new chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission, taking ownership of the nuclear codes from Peter Beattie after the former Queensland premier was medically retired with tennis elbow of the Twitter thumb.
Beattie stepped down after a reformative tenure that combined the odd charming gaffe with an unprecedented method for a rugby league administrator, that being, getting stuff done without permission from a columnist.
V’landys has stepped into the seat thus far to a warm welcome, one that will probably dissipate the moment Sam Burgess is medically exempted from Souths’ salary cap.
For those uninitiated, the official responsibility of the ARLC chairman is to drive the game’s evolution by making calls on broad strategic decisions while being hunted for sport by Paul Kent.
V’landys will sit at the head of a panel that is tasked with a clear brief: to act independently of all stakeholders and deliver decisions in the best interests of the game, as long as the clubs approve.
Frankly, the chairman’s role is a thankless occupation of labyrinthine dilemmas and demands that probably needed to be addressed in the Arthurson handover, with many who stand in the role spending their vacations relaxing as kamikaze pilots.
With V’Landys to tackle the role while continuing his position at Racing NSW, many are questioning if he can fix the game’s undulating snake-pit of problems on part-time hours while juggling the demands of top-line animals like Redzel and Phil Gould.
But despite the obvious conflicts, be assured there is nothing to worry about. After all, the Daily Telegraph says it will be fine, and racing has adequately governed itself for nearly a week now without incident.
The question is this: does V’landys have the chutzpah to deliver solutions for things nobody has been able to fix since the dawn of rugby league, such as the forward pass law, domesticating Rabbitohs fans and of course, rugby league?
After a softening up period with Todd Greenberg, V’landys looks set to sink his teeth into the big issues, right after he wrangles with broadcasters over where to hide the Titans and checks on the welfare of Laurie Nicholls.
The new chairman has arrived at a time of major importance for rugby league, with many critical questions circling the code. What is the game doing to replace its fading numbers of TV viewers and Burgesses? Do we need a team in Baltimore?
Could the game do with an international airport? And most critically, is rugby league under threat from Ryan James?
Unfortunately, V’landys addressed none of these questions in his maiden press conference, preferring to concentrate on less important stuff, such as:
V’landys has promised transparency in all his dealings by assuring he will be a straight shooter who will “say it to your face”. This could mean anything from having his own Twitter account to a ghostwritten pseudonym.
The new commissioner has vowed to overhaul the referees and match review committee. Based on this, I’ve got no reason to believe we won’t see a headache until at least Round 1.
V’landys declared he will use his extensive political clout to seek upgrades on suburban grounds. If this gravitas extends to a parking spot on Warringah Road, he’s a miracle worker.
Nevertheless, the new boss’s plans could result in matchbox venues like Brookvale and Leichhardt Oval finally entering the 21st century. This hopefully means an upgrade on toilet facilities, which are currently an opposition player’s car.
V’landys categorically ruled out the relocation of any Sydney or Brisbane team. But while he didn’t mince words, he failed to quash the possibility of one mass merger or a consolidation-based regional transplant.
The chairman voiced his concerns about amateur regional clubs, and he’s right. Newcastle were awful this year.
V’landys plans to help these satellite franchises mimic the recent success of regional powerhouse Canberra. So congratulations to Cowboys fans, you’ll be participating in one grand final every 25 years.
Additionally, he wants to reinvigorate bush footy back to its golden years of consistent turnouts for grand finals of 10,000, a vision he hopes to achieve by playing these games on Thursday nights at ANZ Stadium.
V’landys went big by promising an ever fatter TV deal than the current agreement, and negotiating an upgrade should be easy considering the game has taken a hit on ratings and advertising spend, a predicament which can be solely blamed on Anthony Seibold.
Early whispers are the NRL season will be run as a curtain-raiser to The Everest, however, running rugby league in conjunction with a horse race would obviously mean a reduction in gambling ads.
V’landys closed the door on a return for Folau, which is good news for the 16 clubs that publicly shunned his services, and bad for the 16 clubs in private talks to have him back.