OWNERS need to tow the line.Season 2006 has kicked off and it?s worth reflecting on what has been a busy off season. One of the lasting controversies has been the issue of team ownership. For most of us ownership is a fickle concept. Anyone with money (or a decent credit rating) can buy a car, but ownership is useless without a licence. Lose your licence and your vehicle might as well be scrap metal. As untouchable as we felt when we bought our first cars, most of us have learnt that we are all answerable for our actions. That is unless we own a Rugby League team.Much like player managers were in the ?90s, team owners are the new untouchables of the NRL, enjoying this freedom because they are answerable to no-one but themselves. While players, officials and even David Gallop has a boss or bosses, owners by definition run their own race. And it?s this freedom that is making fans and administrators of other codes nervous. A classic example of this is being played out at Manchester United this season. When new team owner Malcolm Glazier bought a majority share in the English Premier League club, fans became concerned that he would move the team away from their spiritual home of Old Trafford. While rumours of Glaziers planned move were false, the thought that the new owner could move the team on a moments notice has made the Red Devil?s fanbase uneasy. Man U fans now spend more time fighting the intentions of their team owner (through movements such as ?Stop Malcolm Glazier?) than barracking for their football team.The untold power of team owners was undoubtedly considered when the NRL handed out punishment to the Warriors for salary cap breaches. During the numerous interviews David Gallop conducted following the announcement, the NRL chief was careful not to tread on the toes of Warriors majority owner Eric Watson. And with good reason, Watson has made a significant financial investment in Rugby League over many years. Gallop understands if the Kiwi millionaire feels like he has been treated unjustly he has every right to take his money elsewhere, or even declare the Warriors bankrupt (as we have seen previous Warriors owners do). This is the modern day challenge for Rugby League administrators: maintaining a balance between the interests of private investors in the game and ensuring the integrity of the competition is maintained. It is ironic that, as South?s members vote for or against privitisation on Sunday, their ownership model could answer the NRL difficulties. Thanks to determined members, Peter Holmes a Court?s proposal has been adjusted to include several non- negotiable guarantees that must be adhered to by the new owners. Such guarantees could form the basis for the NRL to establish a team?s owners register. Registration could involve provisions ensuring any changes to team colours, playing venues and mascots are under the control of members. These provisions could even be decided by each individual clubs fanbase through a ballot. This would also provide an opportunity for the NRL to include negotiated criteria as to how owners are answerable and punishable if their club breaches NRL laws. Private investors are now accustomed to regulation. By far the majority of industries are regulated in some way, and major shareholders understand they are answerable if something goes awry. In the NRL, such regulation would ensure investors would think twice about any underhand dealings, or at least ensure their staff aren?t tempted to bend the laws. But the greatest benefit this form of regulation would provide for the NRL is that it would weed out any investors with questionable intentions. Just like on the field, Rugby League needs it?s money men to be first class.
FRIDAY, 17th March 2006Wests v Canterbury at Telstra Stadium, 7:30pmTigers: Brett Hodgson (c), Michael Crockett, Dean Collis, Paul Whatuira, Jamaal Lolesi, Daniel Fitzhenry, Scott Prince, Bryce Gibbs, Robbie Farah, John Skandalis, Anthony Laffranchi, Todd Payten, Ben GaleaInterchange: Ben Reynolds, Keith Galloway, Ryan O'Hara, Sam HarrisBulldogs: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Andrew Emelio, Willie Tonga, Matt Utai, Daniel Holdsworth, Brent Sherwin, Chris Armit, Corey Hughes, Roy Asotasi, Willie Mason, Andrew Ryan (c), Tony GrimaldiInterchange: Reni Maitua, Mark O'Meley, Adam Perry, Jon Green, Billy NgawiniReferee: Steve ClarkSaturday, 18th March 2006Parramatta v New Zealand at Waikato Stadium (Hamilton), 5:30pmEels: Wade McKinnon, Luke Burt, Ben Smith, Timana Tahu, Eric Grothe, John Morris, Tim Smith, Nathan Cayless (c), Mark Riddell, Paul Stringer, Nathan Hindmarsh, Chad Robinson, Glenn MorrisonInterchange: PJ Marsh, Dean Widders, Josh Cordoba, Michael Vella, Daniel Wagon (one to be omitted)Warriors: Brent Webb, Todd Byrne, Tony Martin, Clinton Toopi, Manu Vatuvei, Jerome Ropati, Nathan Fien, Ruben Wiki, Lance Hohaia, Steve Price (c), Awen Guttenbeil, Michael Luck, Louis AndersonInterchange: Grant Rovelli, Evarn Tuimavave, Epalahame Lauaki, Wairangi KoopuReferee: Sean HampsteadCronulla v Brisbane at Toyota Park, 7.30pmSharks: David Simmons, Darren Albert, Beau Scott, Phil Bailey, Luke Covell, Adam Dykes, Brett Kimmorley, Ben Ross, Kevin Kingston, Hutch Maiava, Reece Williams, Lance Thompson, Greg BirdInterchange: Phil Leuluai, Luke Douglas, Cameron Ciraldo, Tevita Latu, Luke Harlen, Darren Mapp (two to be omitted)Broncos: Karmichael Hunt, Steve Michaels, Justin Hodges, Shaun Berrigan, Darius Boyd, Darren Lockyer (c), Brett Seymour, Shane Webcke, Michael Ennis, Petero Civoniceva, Dane Carlaw, David Stagg, Casey McGuireInterchange: Brad Thorn, Ben Hannant, Neville Costigan, Greg Eastwood, Tame Tupou (one to be omitted)Referee: Russell SmithNorth Queensland v Manly at Dairy Farmers Stadium, 9.30pm (AEDT)Cowboys: Matt Bowen, Neil Sweeney, Ty Williams, Paul Bowman, Matt Sing, Johnathan Thurston, Brett Firman, Mitchell Sargent, Aaron Payne, Shane Tronc, Jacob Lillyman, Luke O'Donnell, Travis Norton (c)Interchange: David Faiumu, Steve Southern, Justin Smith, Matthew ScottSea Eagles: Brett Stewart, Paul Stephenson, Steve Bell, Steve Matai, Chris Hicks, Michael Monaghan, Matt Orford, Jason King, Shane Dunley, Brent Kite, Steve Menzies, Anthony Watmough, Ben Kennedy (c)Interchange: Travis Burns, Luke Williamson, Kylie Leuluai, Mark Bryant, Adam Cuthbertson (one to be omitted)Referee: Paul SimpkinsSunday, 19th March 2006Sydney v Melbourne at Aussie Stadium at 2.30pmRoosters: Anthony Minichiello, Amos Roberts, Ryan Cross, Iosia Soliola, Sam Perrett, Braith Anasta, Jamie Soward, David Shillington, Brett Finch, Craig Fitzgibbon (c), Anthony Tupou, Chris Flannery, Ashley HarrisonInterchange: Craig Wing, Nigel Plum, Shane Shackleton, Lopini PaeaStorm: Billy Slater, Matt Geyer, Matt King, Greg Inglis, Jake Webster, Scott Hill, Cooper Cronk, Garret Crossman, Cameron Smith, Antonio Kaufusi, David Kidwell (c), Michael Crocker, Dallas JohnsonInterchange: Brett White, Ryan Hoffman, Ian Donnelly, Steve Turner, Jamie Feeney (one to be omitted)Referee: Tony ArcherSt George Illawarra v Penrith at WIN Stadium at 3.00pmDragons: Clint Greenshields, Reece Simmonds, Mark Gasnier, Matt Cooper, Colin Best, Dean Young, Ben Hornby (c), Luke Bailey, Aaron Gorrell, Jason Ryles, Corey Payne, Ashton Sims, Andrew PriceInterchange: Justin Poore, Michael Henderson, Matt Bickerstaff, George Ndaira.Panthers: Rhys Wesser, Lee Hookey, Danny Galea, Luke Lewis, Nick Youngquest, Preston Campbell, Craig Gower, Joel Clinton, Luke Priddis, Craig Stapleton, Matthew Cross, Tony Puletua (c), Shane RodneyInterchange: Frank Puletua, Bryan Norrie, Frank Pritchard, Luke SwainReferee: Shayne HayneCanberra v Newcastle at Canberra Stadium, 3.00pmRaiders: Clinton Schifcofske (c), Adrian Purtell, Phil Graham, David Howell, Adam Mogg, Jason Smith, Lincoln Withers, Willie Raston, Simon Woolford, Troy Thompson, Ben Jones, Jason Croker, Alan TongueInterchange: Todd Carney, Terry Martin, Tom Learoyd-Lars, Michael HodgsonKnights: Milton Thaiday, Brian Carney, Matthew Gidley, George Carmont, Anthony Quinn, Kurt Gidley, Andrew Johns (c), Craig Smith, Danny Buderus, Josh Perry, Steve Simpson, Kirk Reynoldson, Reegan TannerInterchange: Adam Woolnough, Daniel Tolar, Riley Brown, Todd Lowrie.Referee: Jason Robinson