Gus Gould and I have something in common.
We both have NRL crystal balls, which we use to gaze into the future and know with a fair degree of certainty what’s going to happen to the game. The difference is, his crystal ball is set to doom-and-gloom mode, while mine is set to joy-and-happiness mode.
There’s no doubt the NRL is in a difficult financial position now the season has been postponed – but so are our other winter sporting codes.
The only differences are the degrees of financial stress that each code will have to manage. The obvious factors each will face are their financial positions, the length of time they’ll be unable to source revenue and their financial commitments until this crisis is over and they can get back onto the field.
Prior to gazing into my crystal ball, I went back and looked at crises in Australia since federation and there were two key elements governments have strived for.
The first is once the crisis was over, governments wanted to return people to normalcy as quickly as possible.
The second is that sport was seen as a terrific way to get people interacting and also as an escape from the difficulties they faced as they tried to put their lives back together.
The specifics of the current crisis are different from what Australia has had to face previously, but the outcomes the government would be wanting are the same.
Knowing this is what the prime minister will likely want, when I looked into the future, I saw a very different picture from that presented by that other ball gazer, Mr Gould.
The NRL will start again, as soon as the medical experts give the all clear. The exact date was hazy (I’m not Nostradamus), but it seemed to suggest sometime early July, but no later than August.
The NRL will be provided with sufficient funds by the federal government to supplement income from other sources for the 2020 season. This will likely be in the form of an interest-free loan, payable on the date the Titans win their first premiership.
All teams currently in the NRL will be playing again this year.
The NRL and RLPA will work harmoniously to manage player payments for 2020, with players accepting reasonable pay cuts.
And Joey Leilua will have enough to pay his mortgage and bills.
I tried to look past 2020, but the further I tried to look into the future, the more cloudy and obscure were the outcomes.
I sensed a major review of the game coming up before the 2021 season, but the outcomes were not clear. What was clear was the game would be improved by the changes, making it more resilient to manage future problems.
The one overriding emotion I sensed was happiness. Rugby league will continue in Australia in the future, fans will passionately support the game and it will continue to dominate conversation in our winter months.