Off The Wall


The longer the ASADA investigation into the Sharks, and almost certainly several other clubs, drags on and on, the more the focus on on the absolute paucity of quality and competent administrators in the greatest game of all.

I have written about it on numerous occasions, but my sense is that the quality of club administrators in our game is at best stagnating, and at worse actually in decline.

And when you look at how the ARLC/NRL is handling the whole crisis, perhaps the greatest crisis the game has ever faced, you have to wonder when the overall standard of administration has gone backwards as well!

The NRL was painfully slow to get fully involved in the ASADA investigation into the Sharks coaching and playing staff.

The result was that for several days players were acting in a way that was not in their best interest, or the best interest of the Sharks or the game.

But are they to be blamed fully for that?

Here is a group of young men staring career ruin, and possibly even worse, in the face.

They needed professional and competent guidance and support. At the most crucial period they did not get it. And they needed an absolute assurance they would be afforded "due process" and "fairness"

And one reason why they did not get it is that the Sharks administration was a total rabble - just as it has been for years.

The club did not have a CEO. The Chairman was overseas, though with hindsight, that might have been fortuitous!

The club was in dire financial straits.

The NRL more than anyone should have known that.

It should have stepped in the moment it heard the Sharks were under investigation.

When it finally intervened, last Friday afternoon, you can tell it did so in haste.

At the same time as the NRL and Sharks were announcing the "appointment" of Bruno Cullen as the "Interim CEO" he seemed to be indicating he had not finally decided because he had other interests to evaluate before making a commitment.

The NRL should have been there days earlier - if not weeks earlier.

The performance of  the Acting Sharks Chairman and the club's legal "advisor" at a press conference shown live on Sky News was just appalling.

And when the Chairman finally returned from overseas at the weekend, his exclusive newspaper interview, and "on the run" media performance on Sunday were actually significantly worse!

Is it any wonder that Sharks players, and players from other clubs, are alarmed, and frightened?

The administrations of Kevin Humphreys, Ken Arthurson and John Quayle, and Ron McAuliffe in Queensland, did not always get it right.

The game faced more than one crisis on their watch.

But they always in the end forthrightly stood up for the players, and broadly protected the best interests of the game.

Why has it taken the Liberal Premier of NSW, and the Federal Labor MP, Daryl Melham, to raise the issue of procedural fairness and to ask where this is all going?

In the Labor caucus in Canberra today, Mr Melham took on the hapless Federal Sports Minister front and centre, apparently telling her ASADA must put up or shut up.

Why isn't the NRL saying that?

We keep on hearing it is "constrained", acting on "legal advice", and even allegedly under some form of "sanction" from ASADA.

Is that good enough?

I profoundly believe not!