Those remarks infuriated the good rugby league folk of Perth, especially Perth businessman Peter Cumins, who was on the board of the Western Reds during Super League and also behind the push for the West Coast Pirates.
“The way he dismissed the WA market and his reasons are pathetic,” Cumins said late last year. “Not going to waste money trying to break into a rusted-on AFL state? One of the most successful clubs is the Melbourne Storm and you can’t get more rusted-on than Victoria.
“I was gutted. Parents, volunteers are gutted. What pissed me off even more was we had to read about it in the press.”
V’landys didn’t want to comment further when contacted by this column, but he wasn’t moving away from his inflammatory comments about a Perth franchise featuring in the next broadcast deal, which starts in 2023.
Would a team in Perth succeed?
The city last year successfully hosted State of Origin II. The crowd of 59,721 was the ground record at Optus Stadium until it was eclipsed by a Bledisloe Cup match months later.
But more than a few influential people at the NRL fear the rebirth of the Nines could be a flop.
A crowd of 12,000 is expected for Friday’s match at HCF Park (which has a capacity of 20,000), with about 15,000 anticipated for Saturday.
At the very least, the tournament is likely to run at a financial loss, with some privately questioning why it wasn’t played in Brisbane or even at the new stadium in Townsville. It is unclear how much the Western Australian government paid for the hosting rights.
The reason why the NRL Nines were outrageously successful in its initial years at Auckland’s Eden Park was that the promoter, Duco Events, did an outstanding job selling the event.
One half of Duco was Dean Lonergan, the Kiwi boxing promoter and former Canberra Raider who manages Jeff Horn and could sell ice to Iceland.
He sold the Nines like a world title fight, ignoring the NRL’s wishes to sign up players as ambassadors while also linking local clubs to NRL powerhouses to ensure the local community was heavily invested.
The music died for the Auckland Nines for a few reasons, but mostly because the Warriors didn’t take the tournament seriously — as well as failing year on year to reach the NRL finals.
After a two-year hiatus, the NRL has taken control and rebirthed the Nines in the west.
I’m yet to catch Nines fever, I must say, although it would be preferable to coronavirus.
Former stars coming out of retirement feels like a gimmick. The fact some clubs are sending lightweight squads makes the tournament feel like an exhibition trot, not something to be taken remotely seriously let alone a pre-cursor to the season ahead. In the first few years, clubs were required to select five of their top 10-contracted players. Now it’s only one from the top six.
How the good people of Perth respond will be interesting, although it is unlikely to convince V’landys to change his mind on snubbing Perth as a potential NRL franchise.
The NRL has a secret team feverishly gathering data on what the game’s “footprint” should look like in years to come.
Its findings are supposed to be handed down later this year, but can the game really justify pouring $10 million a year for the next decade or more into an AFL-obsessed city like Perth?
Hosting Origins and the Nines are one thing — sustaining and propping up an NRL franchise that could take years to take off is another.
The counterargument that the Melbourne Storm have soared since its inception in 1998 doesn’t hold up.
The counterargument to that counterargument is that the Storm dynasty was built by one of the greatest coaches of all-time (Craig Bellamy), greatest players of all-time (Cameron Smith), greatest fullbacks of all-time (Billy Slater), greatest halfbacks of all-time (Cooper Cronk). It also cost News Corp truckloads of cash before it eventually bailed out.
There are already fears about what happens to Melbourne when Bellamy and Smith eventually leave the building, no matter what is left in place.
We’re told the broadcasters aren’t overly keen on a Perth team, too, because of the extra production costs.
And V’landys has already shown his hand when it comes to expansion, claiming he wants a 17-team competition with a second team in Brisbane, something that should have happened 20 years ago.
Perth can fight for a team all it wants — but it’s a fight the chairman will win.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson says “nothing is locked in” for the left centre position vacated by Latrell Mitchell’s off-season switch to South Sydney – but don’t be surprised if representative backrower Angus Crichton ends up there.
Crichton played in the centres for Scots College’s GPS rugby team and has the footwork and agility to play there for the Roosters if they can’t find an alternative.
He’s battling an ankle injury but is expected to play in the World Club Challenge against St Helens next Sunday morning (AEDT).
The other alternatives, since youngster Billy Smith did his ACL, include Mitch Aubusson and Brett Morris.
But the Roosters haven’t given up hope on getting Morris’ twin, Josh, coming from the Sharks, even if his club has already denied his request for a release.
Cronulla are feeling the squeeze of the salary cap.
That doesn’t surprise when you hear busted centre Josh Dugan is on $900,000 this season — and then $975,000 the next.
Remember when the Dragons were carpeted for letting him go because they weren’t prepared to pay him $1 million?
Going to the Matt
Earlier this year, the man at the centre of Rugby Australia’s broadcast rights negotiations — Shane Mattiske — lost 6kgs in five days and had two stints in hospital as he battled salmonella poisoning.
They might seem like fun times as RA’s battle with Fox Sports begins to ramp up over coming weeks.
Mattiske is no amateur and knows how to rumble with News Corp types, having pieced together three deals while working at the NRL.
He was also the man responsible for Tennis Australia’s $300m deal with Channel Nine, publishers of this masthead.
Not bad for a bloke who started off at the NRL as salary cap auditor Ian Schubert‘s offsider before being elevated by then chief executive David Gallop.
The attacks on RA from the News Corp press have slowed in recent days.
As we said in this space a week ago, both are playing poker with bad hands — because both need each other.
Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.