Finally the New Rugby League Commission in Australia have announced the new leader for the NRL. The person they have chosen is Its a decision that came out. David Smith is a Welsh Banker and has links closer to Rugby Union than League. This is on the heels of probably one of the biggest and most influential decisions to be made in rugby league, the banning of the shoulder charge. Though these are decisions that seem isolated in Australia, they have a far reaching and large ramifications internationally as well.
No. That is the basic answer. In fact I think you want someone who is not contaminated by the Rugby League politics of past. The NRL is a business, it has over $1 billion that needs to be looked after and nurtured now and you need someone with knowledge on how to handle the money. David Smith is a Welsh Banker and sits on $1.2 million a year for the next 5 years. If you have a look at many of the successful businesses and sports around the world they don’t have nepotism, something that League suffers from a lot. You need diversity to look at things from a fresh set of eyes.
Just look at Soccer in Australia, they have now grabbed David Gallop and I bet you will see they will ride and rise on his back, as league did. He comes into their organisation with a fresh set of eyes with knowledge on how big sport in Australia is done, and he now will see how a true global sport also is run.
This is where David Smith could be good for Australia. It seems, being Welsh, that he is actually more Rugby Union than League. Yes, it made me cringe a bit the way he kept mentioning Union, but hey he has some ide of how a sport that is more global than league is run. How does their international season actually thrive. I hope that any knowledge he has in this regard he will impart on to John Grant and the RLIF so they can formulate much better strategies in International Rugby League.
The job for Smith is 6 fold: The first is to manage the money that the sport now has. Second is to grow the sport in sponsorship and fans. Third is to have the right people around him to make smart decisions on how the sport is marketed. Fourth is to make sure the referee standards are the best they can be. What we have seen in the last few season has been terrible. Five, he will have to be careful with changing the game, its not the job of the NRL or the ARLC, its the RLIF that does that, but he can advise them and make sure that the sport world wide can implement any changes.
Last but not least it will be his charge to expand the sport. Though Grant has said its off the agenda, it’s not his call to make. The Head of the NRL makes that call, that is why he is there. What I want to see happen in the next month is for Smith to listen to the fans, they are the ones that have given him the job in the end. One, the shoulder charge is brought back and second the expansion is also back on the agenda this will bring back some confidence into the fans. Everything else he can ease himself into it.
So if I were a Sydney Roosters fan I would not be surprise to hear before the beginning of the season that Sonny Bill Williams walks out on his contract. Also, If I were a Roosters fan and a NRL fan, I would not be surprised to hear that the Roosters will cancel SBWs contract. Why I hear you ask? Well in foul swoop the NRL has made Sonny Bill Williams irrelevant. You see what made Sonny Bill William, well, Sonny Bill Williams was the shoulder charge. By banning it he has now essentially been neutralised and ineffective.
The NRL saw SBW coming back to Rugby League as coup and he will pull in fans weather they loves or loathed him. What people wanted to see was his devastating shoulder hits on player where he single handed could stop the momentum of an attacking team and even reverse their fortunes. But now, well what’s the point. The focus of any advertising campaign the NRL could have to cash in on Sonny’s return has now been thrown out the window. NRL fans should be outraged just on that.
But the shoulder charge ban is symptomatic of an even more disturbing trend… well its not really a trend its what’s been happening for near 30 years now… and that is Australia going forward and doing its own thing without any consultation and regard for anyone else. I am sorry but banning the shoulder charge is not something for the ARLC to make, its one for the RLIF to make. It is worrying that despite Grant’s supposed want to make International Rugby League more relevant he goes and makes International Rugby league and its governing body, well irrelevant by going an making a siully decision.
The shoulder charge was one of the things that really made the sport stand out. Its what makes us tough and what makes people love the sport. That a player can get a hit like that, and still get up and keep playing on. We are not a soft sport, we are not soccer or Rugby Union, if they want to be soft let them. We are not. Last week I had a friend and colleague from work come over for a few beers while we watched the Wisconsin Basketball game.
Afterwards I put on A State of Origin game. My friend being from Wisconsin is a huge Football fan and so is able to appreciate and understand a lot of the structure in League. The main comment that kept coming from him was how BIG the tackles were and he loved the shoulder Hits (i.e. charges). See this is the appeal of Rugby League, the big hits without the pads. I bet you will find that any concussion instances are far smaller less than any say in American Football.
Rugby League is a full contact sport, end of story, its what sets us apart from the pack, its why people come to see it and why sponsors are willing to pay the big money for it. Take that away and the sport will be the loser.
Three years ago, around about this time, I made a statement that within 10 years Rugby League will cease to exist in Australia. The shoulder charge is the next step in this death. Don’t get me wrong the NRL will be around, but in a different for, it will be called Australian Rugby Rules. They will playa different game to the rest of the world and the Kangaroos and possibly the Kiwis will cease to exist. The NRL will become another sport in the line of the NFL and AFL: A one country wonder.
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