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Opinion

Revolution or V’Landys: The only chances to get good leadership for the NRL

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Expert
19th May, 2021
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More people than ever are up in arms about how the NRL is currently being run. However, the reality is that they are all totally wasting their breath.

If screaming pointlessly into the void is your thing, go right ahead. But understand that at best all you’ll get is some half-assed knee jerk from NRL HQ and nothing more.

The only way there will ever be any real change in the way the game is run – and who runs it – is through revolution.

Only complete upheaval of the current way the top tier of the game is structured and run in Australia will achieve real change.

However, the likelihood of revolution is tiny because so many of us remember what happened last time with horror.

When the game gained great popularity in the late 80s and early 90s it became worth real money. The resultant Super League War saw two very rich people fight it out to try and take control of the game.

In the end, after that fight had split the competition and destroyed masses of the game’s popularity, there was a negotiated settlement.

The big change to come out of it was who then controlled the game. No longer was it the ARL, or the NSWRL, or the QRL. It was now a company.

Now, from what I can see, the NRL and the ARLC are effectively closed shops that don’t care about what anyone thinks – not the clubs, not the NSWRL or the QRL, not the country rugby leagues, and positively not the fans.

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While the NSWRL, the QRL and the sixteen clubs all technically have a voice on decisions, anything short of unanimous action carried out by those parties is unlikely to effect what the NRL does, or how they do it, on anything other than a surface level.

And the chances of that unanimous action ever taking place are unbelievably small.

The upshot of all of that is that we can complain about the NRL and how it is run all we like, but bugger all is ever likely to change at all.

We can complain about the officiating until we are blue in the face, often with excellent reason. However, with the exception of the occasional official being scapegoated to try and quell club and fan outrage, the selection of the referees and bunker officials will continue to be purely at the discretion of, well, whomever has been deciding on them.

We will continue to see things like Tyrell Fuimaono, Josh Papalii and Herman Ese’ese getting sent off in a crack down on protecting the head, while nothing at all happens to others – for example, the Storm’s Felise Kaufusi, who smashed Corey Norman in the face with a forearm and wasn’t even charged, let alone sin binned or sent off.

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Just accept that reality people.

We can scream until our voices are hoarse about the inconsistencies in what the NRL’s Match Review Committee decides to charge and not to charge, but we won’t change that one iota. In fact, try and find out just who is on the MRC and how they were chosen and by whom.

Go ahead. Try.

If you can find any information on any of that you’re doing better than me. And while that’s the situation, we’ll continue to see the likes of the Kaufusi incident and Bulldogs prop Luke Thompson’s knuckles deep in Josh Hodgson’s skull go straight through to the keeper.

Tyrell Fuimaono is sent off.

Tyrell Fuimaono of the Dragons is sent off for an alleged illegal shot on Ryan Papenhuyzen. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Nothing to see here people. Move along.

It is just the way it is.

We can go absolutely off our brains about trainers roaming free across every NRL field, in direct contravention of the NRL’s own Operations Manual and nothing will be done to actually stop it.

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Even when a trainer illegally interfered with the play during the NRL grand final, very arguably affecting the result, the NRL didn’t even suspend or fine that trainer, and – even more inexplicably – they didn’t sack Operations Manager Nathan McGuirk who – despite multiple warnings of the risks, totally failed to enforce the rules so as to remove that totally unnecessary risk.

Why didn’t they do either of those things? And why does Alfie Langer seem to be on the field as much as ever? Because the NRL could not give two hoots about it. They are totally ok with that state of affairs. Why? Who the hell knows!

And they don’t care at all that you aren’t.

It is for the best that you come to terms with it.

We can openly question (without suggesting any wrongdoing) how Andrew Abdo, or Graham Annesley, or Jared Maxwell, or any of the other people filling roles at NRL HQ actually got their jobs, what processes were run for those positions, what qualifications and experience were required, and what candidates they beat out.

Acting NRL Chief Executive Officer Andrew Abdo

Andrew Abdo. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

However, you aren’t ever likely to find out. Those filling the roles in NRL HQ aren’t ever likely to tell the likes of any of us. And they really don’t give a crap what we think.

So best you suck it up Princes and Princesses!

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We do, conversely, know who is on the ARLC Board but, with the notable exception of Wayne Pearce, we have little-to-no idea how or why each was selected for their roles, or by whom, or how the process was managed. And we aren’t going to.

Why? Because the NRL is effectively a closed shop. The number one priority of the organisation is to make a profit through selling the game as an entertainment product.

Here is the cold, hard fact for all of you saying that the game is in ruins: viewers are up 14 per cent on last year.

As far as the NRL is concerned, everything is going swimmingly.

We can all swim around in our sea of excrement-smelling outrage as much as we like. As far as NRL HQ is concerned – and whomever it is that they answer to – everything is in great shape.

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It ain’t broke so they aint going to fix it.

Into this mix comes ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys.

I may just be the only rugby league fan left that likes him.

Why?

Because I believe he actually likes the game, maybe even loves it.

I believe that before he became involved with the ARLC that he actually followed the game and enjoyed it. Unlike Peter Beattie who couldn’t even name the clubs, or David Smith who clearly had zero affinity with the sport at all, V’landys is a rugby league man.

ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

In spite of all of the nay-sayers and detractors out there – and don’t get me wrong, there are lots of good reasons for your issues – I believe he has the game’s best interests at heart.

Sure, the crackdown on contact with the head was done poorly, but I’ve been calling for that to be prioritised for years. Yes, the new rules to speed up the game were ill conceived and have caused more issues than they were intended to solve.

But at least he’s having a crack.

In the last 20 years only Todd Greenberg’s short lived sin bin revival can be compared to V’landys’ efforts.

And I believe that he just might be the man to open up the NRL closed shop and try and get the best people for each role into each job, and cast off the incompetent deadwood who have somehow gained those roles.

Let me encourage you all to see Peter V’landys not as the problem, but as the potential saviour of rugby league.

Because your alternative option is revolution, and that just isn’t going to happen.

And it’s time that you all just accept that truth.

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