Off the Wall

As the start of the 2013 season rapidly approaches, the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) needs to have a good hard look at the way it is "running" the greatest game of all.

The decisive and positive leadership we had hoped for when the ARLC finally took control of the game early in 2012 has been singularly lacking.

The commission has been trading for months on the new television rights agreement which will come into operation when the season commences.

The simple truth is that the deal was very close to the minimum that the game could have accepted - given what the AFL secured, and given just how inadequate the last agreement was.

It was a reasonable outcome - but most certainly not a spectacular one.

In other areas, the ARLC has really been found wanting.

There is, in my view, too much complacency about the state of the game from the Commission.
It churns out statistics on how great things are.

But it says very little about the true state of the game where it really counts - at the grass roots level in New South Wales and Queensland.

Funding for clubs in the growing outer suburbs of Sydney and Brisbane, where the game faces its most direct challenge from other codes, needs to be significantly lifted just as soon as the extra revenue from the new TV deal really begins flowing into the ARLC coffers.

We had all hoped that the arrival of the ARLC would mean more spending on players, on coaching, on junior league, and on the game in the regions and the bush, and less on the rugby league "bureaucracy".

Sadly, the total bureaucracy seems more bloated than ever.

I have no doubt that individual commission members are doing their best.

But they are, in my view, handicapped by a lack of experience and knowledge in the game........and the hopeless way the commission membership was determined really mitigated against a commission that could provide immediate leadership.

How can you get informed and confident leadership when anyone involved in the administration of the game - at any level - was effectively  excluded from appointment!

One of the nation's leading businesswomen is Katie Page, the wife of Gerry Harvey.

She served on the NRL Commission as an independent member.

That excluded her from being considered for the ARLC.

What nonsense that was - and what a loss it remains.

What is Katie Page doing now?

She is busily organising the Magic Millions Racing Carnival on the Gold Coast - owned by Gerry Harvey - and has pulled of a significant coup by signing up Zara Phillips, the grand daughter of The Queen, to be the Carnival's ambassador on  the Gold Coast this week!

But what is done is done!

The ARLC members have been in the job long enough to have learnt enough to give the game the decisive and visionary leadership it deserves.

The season effectively begins with the All Stars game  - shifted to Suncorp Stadium - on 9 February........less than five weeks from now.

The coming season may be a good one.

The ARLC needs to ensure that the game at all levels is ready to maximise the benefit from the higher revenue flows in particular.

And it needs to address some issues that have remained unresolved for too long - such as radio rights!