Who is in charge of Rugby League? Who runs the sport? Whose job is it to stand up and protect the integrity of the game?
It doesn’t take much to change things in Rugby League. All you need to do is whinge louder than everyone else. Rugby League was once known as a sport that was driven by innovation. These days Rugby League is driven by administrators that react to whinging.
It might be a coach that feels like his team would have won a game had the rules not screwed his side over, or a player who wanted to play a State Of Origin game but couldn’t because he got suspended, or even just a media campaign by a newspaper who pushes some hot button agenda because it gets them a lot of hits on their web site. As long as you whinge long enough and loud enough, you can force a change to the very fabric of the game.
Think about the last time you heard someone in charge of anything worthwhile in the game say the word “No”. In an era where most of our club administrators are a bunch of used car salesmen, and the higher ups at the NRL are just a bunch of politicians, how many times have you heard someone in any position of power say “No, that is not going to happen because that would be bad for Rugby League?”.
Ian Schubert, the man who was brought in to fix a Parramatta Eels club that was run into the ground, shocked me today when he actually said as much. When asked about the Eels negotiating with Semi Radradra to have a short stint in Rugby Union with the clubs approval he said this:
“The rules do not facilitate players ducking off in the middle of their contract to go off and do other things and that definitely wouldn’t be in the best interests of our club or rugby league as a whole.”
I can’t remember the last time I heard an administrator at any level say anything like that. Ian Schubert refuses to bow to the needs of an individual because it wouldn’t be in the best interest of the game. Incredible! A lone voice in a sea of yes men!
We have a set of State Of Origin and International eligibility rules that are set up, not to protect the interest of Rugby League, but to allow enough wiggle room for a few individuals to do what ever they want. The coaches love it because it allows them to select from a larger talent pool than they would have previously had. Unfortunately the administrators are complete pushovers, and they care way more about the money being generated rather than protecting the games integrity.
All of this should be Todd Greenberg’s job. Unfortunately Greenberg is quickly forging a reputation for himself as being a talker. A politician who will turn up wearing a nice suit, say all the right things, make all the right people feel important, and then leave having not actually accomplished anything.
It should be Greenberg’s job to protect the integrity of the game, even in the face of outrage and criticism. He isn’t there to make everyone happy. He isn’t there to make “stakeholders” feel good about themselves. His number one job is to make sure that on his watch Rugby League’s integrity is protected above all else.
It wouldn’t take much to sort the game out. Ban nation swapping at international level. Change State Of Origin rules so that you can only play for NSW if you were born there, and you can only play for QLD if you were born there. Give the referees boss the backing to come out and detail the mistakes an NRL team made every time a coach dares to blame the loss of a game on the referee rather than himself, and his players. Bring in a system so that player payments come directly from the NRL rather than clubs in an effort to move towards a more transparent salary cap system.
All off this would make some people whinge, but for the most part, it would help Rugby League reestablished some of the integrity it has lost over the years.
With great power comes great responsibility, and unfortunately, right now, all of the people that have power in Rugby League don’t want to take responsibility for doing what is right by the game.
The ARL Board and Todd Greenberg love turning up to controlled press events and morning teas, but not one of them wants to make a strong stance to make Rugby League a great sport once more.
As long as no one is willing to stand up for the sport of Rugby League, the inmates will continue to run the asylum.
We need more people like Ian Schubert in this sport who are willing to do the right thing by Rugby League.