Off the Wall

Just three sleeps until the 2013 premiership begins - after the worst cricket season on record it surely cannot come soon enough!

The pre-season has been something of a mixed bag. Clearly a number of teams have done better than the rest - but trials are a notoriously bad guide to the finals.

I believe we have much to look forward to. And after the last few weeks we surely need it, the cricket season aside.

The Australian Crime Commission, aided by the Federal Government and ASDA, made sweeping and wholly unspecific allegations of corrupt practices in relation to illegal drug use and abuse, and match fixing and rorting. The cloud the ACC seems to have deliberately seeded hovers over the AFL and the NRL. It has caused damage - and everyone associated with both codes, and particularly the players, deserve to have the whole issue resolved as soon as possible.

The way the NRL, and the AFL, have hardly handled the issue with adequate competence. But they are entitled to some slack because the way the whole process has been managed above and beyond their influence.

Then along came the tragic news concerning Ben Barba.

Again, the game as a whole has been in the headlines in a way we could do without. But he deserves space and time - and we must hope he can find it possible to return to the game, and the Bulldogs.

The other "distraction" is one I am frankly more annoyed about. The new CEO of the NRL is off to a stuttering start. We can overlook getting players names wrong, even on big occasions. But what we cannot overlook is the new CEO's haphazard and wholly unhelpful interview last week when he talked about "expansion".

He wants the addition of clubs, and the relocation of existing clubs, to be on the agenda. And he wants the game to be a "national" game which I presume means locating NRL teams in Perth, Adelaide, and perhaps Hobart and Darwin?

Is that really a priority? Is that really what we want the new CEO to be focussing on?

Last year, after the former NRL had tantalised the promoters of potential new clubs in Brisbane, Ipswich, Central Queensland, NSW Central Coast, PNG, Wellington, and Perth, and maybe one or two places I have forgotten, the new regime effectively ruled out expansion in the 5 year life of the new television agreement - which means not the 2018 season.

I had enormous sympathy with some of the promoters who has spent millions of their own folding putting together graphic presentations, signing up sponsors, and even signing up potential players and coaches, only to be told that it was all off the agenda! And the John Grant administration has reaffirmed that more than once since it took over a year ago.

But is the new CEO some font of all wisdom, and authority, to put the issue back on the agenda? I simply ask - if so, why?

With a new television agreement in place surely we need a period of STABILITY and CONSOLIDATION? Or am I missing something?

The $1 billion deal is seeing a progressive lift in the salary cup, additional funding for juniors, some funding for areas where the game is under real threat at the grass roots level. These areas have been under funded for too long. And we also need a period of stability to enable the half dozen or so clubs that  are clearly in shaky financial circumstances to rebuild.

There is one indisputable fact about expansion - the exiting teams end up getting less! And there is a second one - pouring hundreds of millions into expanded teams does not guarantee success - on and off the field. The AFL would surely confirm that!

Dave Smith needs to learn about the game, stop trying to use "jargon" he is not used to, stop trying to be "mates" with players, and do what he is clearly best at doing - making certain the $1 billion or so is spent wisely, and transparently.

Expansion is a headline we could simply do without!

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