You don’t know him, I don’t know him, but Dave Smith just stepped into the highest profile sports administration job in Australia.
Having watched the press conference announcing David Smith as the new NRL CEO a few things came out of it for me.
Firstly, Smith, a Welshman based in Sydney in his role in the banking industry, is very much from a Rugby Union background. He played the game as an amateur up until his 40’s and mentioned he watched Rugby Union a number of times throughout his press conference. He was honest about his Rugby Union background almost to a fault, and to me it probably wasn’t the ideal start to have the head of the NRL talking about Rugby Union in shuch glowing terms.
Smith talked about his wish to leave the banking sector and forge a career in sports administration. The feeling I got from the whole thing is that we were seeing the grooming of a bloke that would one day be an International Rugby Union administrator.
On the positive side Smith handles himself pretty well in the face of the press and he talked about Rugby League having the opportunity to grow, not only in Australia but internationally. His background as a Rugby Union fan and not being from a Rugby League background could be what the game needs. A new perspective and new ideas. Someone that comes in with ideas about what is needed to grow a game on a larger scale than man past administrators who saw places like Melbourne, Auckland and Perth as “outposts”.
For me I think Smith needs a few things to be a success as the NRL CEO.
He needs to be able to sell the game aggressively. The job of NRL CEO isn’t just one of an administrator, it is a much more complete role. Smith becomes the face of the game in many ways and when something goes wrong he will be the man everyone goes to for answers. He needs to be ready to face the spotlight, the fire of the media and fans and have complete confidence in the game during all of it. It’s a tough gig!
Smith will need to be strong with clubs and not be afraid to “make enemies” in a game that still carries a lot of petty grudge holders. He needs to be able to say the word “No” and stand by his decisions no matter what the outcome is. The health of the game must always come first.
I think Smith’s Rugby Union background could be a good thing in terms of expanding the game and setting the game up for a longer term future. I think he will bring a greater perspective to the role and hopefully won’t be afraid to grow the game nationally against the wishes of Channel 9 who know’s that a national competition is of more value to their rival broadcasters than it is to itself.
There is a need for the NRL CEO to realise that the organisation drives the game, not only in Australia, but world wide, and I have a feeling that will be one big positive we will see from Smith’s administration. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more games played overseas in big media markets to try and raise the profile of the competition.
As fans we can only judge Smith on his time in the job. I remember once the idea of a News Limited lawyer taking over the role of CEO didn’t seem it would work out, but David Gallop helped guide the game to the position it is in today and under an incredibly difficult governance structure.
So its over to you Mr Smith….good luck. You’re gonna need it!
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com