Blue Sky Mining on Dave and Todd’s Excellent Adventure

David Smith has been labeled many things since he began his tenure as NRL CEO. The most recent by respected rugby league journalists and club executives are ‘aloof’ and ‘inaccessible’.

The first point to make is that he doesn’t work for the media, who have been spoiled by CEOs-past. Removing their life support system has annoyed some journalists accustomed to such access, and club CEOs interested in getting an adge. Get over it.

Secondly, his aloofness reflects the fact that he simply doesn’t have as much to say as past CEOs, not a superiority complex. Why? He’s still learning the game, what it is really all about, who the stakeholders are, which radio hosts to avoid and so on. Overexposure by media at this point is a less than zero sum game for him, and banking executives know all about zero sum games!

The target of ire should be the management team in total, not specifically David Smith.

Having made preventable errors and rookie mistakes, he has now unveiled what is being termed a complete overhaul of the NRL management structure, splitting the team into seven reporting units.

Curiously, Jim Courier and Andre Agassi were also present at the press briefing

Curiously, Jim Courier and Andre Agassi were also present at the press briefing

He was also at pains to highlight this was his decision, not the Commission’s (a reference to the highly believable and persistent view that John Grant hired a CEO with no knowledge of the game in an effort to retain a certain amount of control).

The NRL now has a very different management model, at least optically – the silo model. Much like an investment bank, funnily enough! Delegation is an art …

Heads of Equities, Fixed Income, Futures & Options and M&A are replaced with titles such as Heads of Football, Finance, Operations and Marketing, amongst others.

Head of Atrocities and Spin wasn’t listed, though I’m sure that’s an oversight.

But is the silo model a good thing, or a cosmetic attempt to place a new buffer zone of people in front of the media other than David Smith? He clearly wants to manage, but is it managing a management team or the game?

And does anyone think for a second that areas such as Finance or Marketing or Strategy were unstaffed in the first place?

The biggest news was parachuting in Bulldogs’ CEO Todd Greenberg to be Head of Football.

In a way, you could argue that he is the third football CEO in a year since John Grant and the Commission took over, which is a poor record.

Greenberg’s knowledge of the game and ‘Club land’ is extensive, and his ability to communicate externally with media and internal stakeholders are key attributes. He has extensive contacts with an ear to the ground and should be expected to make a good fist of the role.

But the timing is still a little odd.

Beginning in August is a sensible move given that the Bulldogs won’t be playing in September, but recall that he had been interviewed for the CEO role last year, and would have been a superior choice at that time. Yet, after dropping out at the final hurdle, he is back in a position of less responsibility effectively beginning at the end of the home and away season.

The timing suggests that there is far more going on at the Bulldogs than rumours of a split with the coach or the early season hiccups of Ben Barba. And don’t their performances just ooze disharmony?

The Dr likes the idea of a ‘grand plan’ such as David Smith’s, and ever since Stephen Hawking told him that negative particles are sucked into black holes, but positively charged ones are ejected as radiation, he tries to be more positive too!

So good luck, David, making your new team first grade material and mining the blue sky. You will be heavily scrutinised, and rightly so.

Get the core principles right, and remember, the long run is a series of short runs. Basically, don’t stuff up simple things like City-Country again on the way to nirvana.

Oh, and implement the Dr’s rules suggestions. You can thank me later. That way we can keep the blue sky mining boom going …


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