Off the Wall

Some sections of the media have been portraying last week's moves by the NRL on betting and on season scheduling as representing "historic change", and even more.

What complete nonsense!

Is this the best the game's administrators can do on two issues that have been neglected and put in the "too hard" basket for too long?

At a time of enormous challenge for the game, and for sport generally, is this visionary and bold "leadership"?

Let's look at the season schedule change issue. The NRL has decided to have a stand-alone weekend for the Anzac Test and City-Country matches, extending the season by one weekend.

Just about every coach, senior player, and commentator has raised the issue of State of Origin scheduling. The debate about the Anzac Test has been more about whether international matches should all be played at the end of the season - not a stand-alone weekend early in the season.

The NRL won't even consider stand-alone Origin weekends.

And well all know why. Channel Nine won't wear it fullstop.

Channel Nine is "considering" a request from the NRL to shift Origin matches to Monday night to ease player burnout.

While we wait for Nine to give the NRL its decision, the administration of our game once again looks weak and compromised.

On the betting issue, the NRL trumpeted its "reforms" as being decisive and historic. Really?

The NRL has decided to ban three or four "exotic" betting options with sports betting agencies it has an agreement with.

On some matches with some agencies there are 100 betting options! On most there are 50 or so.

What impact on rorting and corruption will the abolition of a handful of options have?

What is surely needed is a multi-pronged approach - reducing the number of exotic options considerably AND the appointment of a fulltime integrity commissioner with wide powers to monitor betting, and pursue offenders through the courts.

The AFL has dismissed the NRL's move to ban a handful of options, and has focused on its superior supervisory/monitoring procedures.

When you look at last week's two "historic" announcements, do they really indicate real leadership, and reflect real and dramatic reform?

Gus Gould clearly does not think so.

In his Sun Herald column yesterday he outlined a complicated series of reforms. I don't agree with many of them, but at least he has given the whole issue more serious thought than it would seem some administrators have.

And his next instalment will be compulsory reading - he intends to give the NRL administration a "character assessment"!