Off the Wall


When the decision was first taken to establish an "independent commission" - along the lines of the AFL Commission - to run the game, we were assured there would be a transparent process that would take time, but the end result would be worth it.

Well, as the establishment of the "IC" apparently gets closer, the whole process looks even less transparent than ever.

The assurances that the current owners of the NRL - News and the ARL (and the NSWRL and QRL) - would not unduly influence the selection process have amounted to nothing.

This week the Sydney Morning Herald's Roy Masters and Brad Walter have exposed the whole process for what it is - pork barrelling, horse trading, and giving mates a leg up first and foremost.

I repeat my view expressed last week that we are getting an IC dominated by business people, with very limited rugby league "experience and knowledge" in evidence.

The fatal flaw was to give News and the ARL an effective "veto" over appointments.

We don't really know how many quality candidates, with a rugby league history and grass roots association and "empathy", have not made the cut because either News or the ARL/QRL have blackballed them.

I have asked a couple of respected businessmen I know to "rate" the seven names that seemed to be over the line, and the one or two or remain in the mix.

Both were staggered that the proposed IC membership was, to use their words, so "light weight" when compared with that of the AFL.

I object to having the game run totally by businessmen and a businesswoman chosen on basis of the rugby league connections/experience/history etc they DON'T have!

Let me throw in a couple of names who seem to have been discarded completely. One I know well, one I have only met a few times.

Geoff Bellew, SC, is the best known player advocate in the game. He is a former Many Sea Eagles Chairman and heads the Player Manager Accreditation Committee. He is the son of the distinguished NSWRL Chairman, the late Tom Bellew. Geoff was brought up on rugby league and remains a passionate fan today.

Steve Renouf, the distinguished former Broncos, Maroons and Kangaroos star, was apparently put forward but also discarded. Steve is an indigenous Australian, who is today working to promote indigenous sport. He is a high quality citizen who would have brought vast knowledge, and integrity, to the Commission.

It is clear to me that neither got up because the process worked against people with a genuine league history - and forthright views.

It is bad enough having an IC with precious little league history, experience, or grass roots knowledge.

It is even worse that the proposed IC falls far short of the lofty ideals outlined when the decision by News to exit the game was made.

Far short in terms of the selection process in particular!

The greatest game of all deserves better - but should we be surprised it won't be getting it?