NRL management never ceases to amaze me, and that’s unfortunate because I like being amazed … but in a positive way.
While the real NRL CEO, Cameron Smith is busy lifting trophies or talking about the Auckland 9’s (please Lord, no!) or Benny Barba, John Grant’s lunchboy has gone and forgotten to invite the game’s Immortals to the season launch. Sheesh!
I haven’t seen a more brain-dead decision since … since … since Anthony Mundine ignored 2 support players 5 metres from the line in a 3-on-1 situation in the 1999 Grand Final. I’m pretty sure 20-0 right after half-time would’ve shut the Storm out of that one, and I’m equally adamant that, while David Smith isn’t quite up there in that rarified air of decision-making, he needs to shut down the opportunities for negative press (like this blog, I suppose) and tighten the ship. Death by a thousand cuts is not a great way for the game to proceed.
I actually don’t envy David Smith’s position because he has moved into a position rife with legacy issues, and it’s clearly too difficult to buy good enough help to inform him what an Immortal is (hint: not Christopher Lambert). Lucky for him that other chap, what’s his name, Gallop, had the TV rights pretty much sealed before he was ‘proactively’ let loose to really threaten the NRL (seen the Wanderers and FC lately?) otherwise the workload would be unbearable!
Coincidentally, I’m sure the existence of these pre-existing issues is one of the reasons Todd Greenberg decided to bide his time with the Bulldogs before taking the top job (and I’m sure it’s a matter of time). The prospect of moving into a position where he has less power and influence, little scope for creativity, and the monumental headache of taking the blame for the persistent issues like player welfare and concussion that should have been dealt with years ago is nowhere near as much fun as poking yourself in the eye repeatedly with a fork. He’s smart. I’d prefer he was ARLC Chairman, but that’s another matter …
Given his banking history, David might have had a few knocks around the melon himself, probably by a blunt object called Libor, to the point where he’s beginning to look a little too much like Harry Potter, the Maxwell Smart of wizards. He will earn that comparison as CEO if he doesn’t get on the front foot and initiate a calculated process to deal with issues surrounding concussion. Previous administrators have not tackled this issue either, but it might have got him off to a ‘proactive’ start. Do what a new government does. Claim a massive budget black hole and start again. He can do the same, though I’m not sure he’s allowed …
In any case, there’s a very tight constraint on how proactive you can be when you don’t really understand the game, but concussion is a no-brainer.
Consider what the US has gone through on this subject – deaths and serial depressions of former professional players. Class action lawsuits have resulted, leading now to studies into youth concussion and other rigorous research that hope to put all the pieces together. It’s a shame some of those lives can’t be restored in the same way.
This is the type of research that the NRL betrays no sign of understanding. It certainly has done nothing about it publicly. It has banned the shoulder charge, but totally missed the point that head contact, in all forms, is the real issue.
I’ll be interested to see what penalties are handed out for high shots this year (guessing they are nowhere near fitting the crime, or true to the theme of caring about the effects of concussion). If the NRL is interested in results, it has to lead. It’s that simple.
Speaking of which …
The Papalii shuffle
This knocked me off my perch the other day. Josh Papalii doing the Gangnam style with a pen in each hand, it seems. How can the season be yet to start and a player has swapped allegiances? Not now, mind you, but for next year. And now it’s just another bad soap opera tug of war. Hoodathunkit? It gets earlier every year. Pretty soon they’ll announce 2yrs in advance!
It’s useful to understand that rugby league players are not like normal employees. They’re contractors. A standard rugby league contract may read as though they are employees, complete with annual leave, but they’re not. After you’ve done your time, the club either wants to keep you … or not. They also have the added responsibility of being contracted as part of a team where, in theory, the cream rises to the top when the performance of said team is greater than the sum of its parts. So this is also a team issue.
The Papalii episode is worse than the Star Wars episodes 1, 2 & 3 combined. Actually, that’s not possible. The point is, a balance needs to be struck between the interests of players, clubs and those other stakeholders whose name escapes me … oh yeah, the fans.
It’s hard to be critical of someone looking out for their future, but it does leave a sour taste for fans to see a player who may not have the incentive to be fully engaged for an entire season knowing that their future lay elsewhere, particularly if the team is losing.
Get the transfer window in place. It doesn’t have to be a free-for-all over a weekend, but refuse to register any contracts signed outside the month of July in the case of a player going to another club.
A player will get the message if his club hasn’t re-signed him by, say, May, but as long as everyone understands nothing is binding until that period, they can have their little clandestine meetings as often as they like, and leak the details if it suits. It’s not too late to interfere with semi-finals, and it’s also early enough to ward off other sports (which is an overblown fear anyway).