Plot thickens in NRL television rights drama


But it got worse for Greenberg as word spread fast that he was going to be left out of Wednesday’s Foxtel meeting, which involved Fox Sports head Peter Campbell, Fox’s head of television, Steve Crawley, and NRL chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo. This has been confirmed by sources at Fox Sports. Greenberg claims he organised the meeting.

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The News Corp print media – News Corp owns Fox Sports – was told Greenberg was not invited. You’d think News Corp would have the inside word on that. It ran a first-edition back-page story under the catchy headline ‘‘Todd Man Out’’.

Greenberg became aware of this after the story had been published in print and online, and told the paper he was an inclusion in the Fox broadcast talks. My understanding is that he asked to be included. I have been told Greenberg rang the paper to let them know he had been included in the meeting.
Take it as fact, Fox executives were happy just to meet with Abdo.

WARRIORS SPEAK OUT

The Warriors are without doubt the club making the biggest sacrifice in this year’s competition, and now they want something back: a rethink of the points that have been awarded to teams. It’s a subject that has been debated, but when the competition’s most-affected team raises the idea, it’s worth listening to.

‘‘My belief is that if the 2020 competition is altered dramatically, like a reduction in rounds to playing less than 20 rounds, we need to examine a number of the levers,’’ Warriors boss Cameron George said. ‘‘Included in that is competition points. I’m not saying we start from scratch, but perhaps we need to find a middle ground of some nature. It’s like starting a running race and moving the finishing line closer after the race has started. It needs re-examining for sure.

‘‘Perhaps halve the points the teams have if we have a short comp and let them keep their for and against. We definitely need to find a middle ground.’’

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A team like the Warriors may have to win 75 per cent of their games in a 15-round competition to have a hope of playing finals. We know they may struggle to finish top eight in a regular competition, but they have far less chance in a reduced comp. Imagine if they were isolated in NSW and 0-4 two weeks into the new season? Motivation to be away from family would be dramatically tested in that situation.

For now, George says the players are committed. ‘‘It has been difficult,’’ he said. ‘‘We have been in lockdown and face that again when we fly over. The only break from that in a six-week period will be the flight over to Australia. That’s a real test for the entire playing group and their families.’’

BORN TO RUN

Peta Hiku found himself at the centre of rugby league’s travel drama when the Warriors were stuck in Australia as the COVID-19 crisis took hold during round one of the NRL. He made the tough call to head home and be with his pregnant wife, Lisa, while his teammates were whisked off to Kingscliff for an unknown period of time with only the shirts on their backs.
‘‘We’ve had our second son, and I’ll be coming over with the boys,’’ Hiku said of his side’s impending departure for the resumed season. ‘‘I’m really grateful to the boys for what they went through and I owe them now. My wife, Lisa, told me to stay with the team, but I didn’t want to miss the birth of our son. I’m grateful for the chance I got and now it’s time for me to get back to work.’’

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NEXT IN LINE?

It is becoming somewhat painful to watch Greenberg being sidelined from regular CEO duties, but there is one person at NRL headquarters who stands to benefit from his demise. Abdo is the mystery figure who came from obscurity to become V’landys’ right-hand man. In the process, he has become favourite to take over from Greenberg when his contract expires at the end of October.
Abdo is a most unlikely boss of the game. He was brought up in South Africa and, therefore, has no history in rugby league. But he has served a seven-year apprenticeship at head office, rising through the ranks to become one of Greenberg’s closest confidantes.
Abdo is seen as a super salesman who can take most of the credit for the 20 per cent increase in non-broadcast revenue last year. He has particularly charmed those in high places, which explains the strong support Abdo has on the ARLC.
However, he is not as widely liked among his colleagues on the management team and others at NRL HQ who he deals with on a daily basis. It has become clear in recent weeks that V’landys will be calling the shots. He should be executive chairman.
Abdo has emerged as a serious candidate to be the next CEO – along with NSWRL chief executive Dave Trodden and a couple of others – because he is likely to be compliant.
Ironically, Abdo has been associated with some of the issues that have brought Greenberg undone. Abdo has built a small empire with about 70 people in his commercial team. It is one of the reasons costs are so high at NRL Central. So you can only imagine how Greenberg feels as his protege is groomed to take over his role.

DOG’S DILEMMA

When it comes to sacrifices made during the COVID-19 crisis, Bulldogs back-rower Adam Elliott is right up there. His partner, Robyn, is due to give birth to their first child on May 8. Not a huge problem with the season not scheduled to restart until May 28. But here is the issue: the couple have relocated to Darwin.

‘‘We made a snap decision at the start of this [COVID-19 crisis] to relocate to where Robyn’s family is,’’ Elliott said. ‘‘We were thinking about it and then we heard on the news that a midwife tested positive to the virus and that made our minds up. The virus isn’t as bad in Darwin and with family there it was the right call. We had everything planned out at home [in Sydney]: the nursery was ready and our doctor was here and all that kind of thing. But we decided to go. We did the quarantine time and now we are waiting.’’

Darwin-based Bulldogs star Adam Elliott.Credit:AAP

But here is the tough part. ‘‘It’s a really emotional decision for me, but after our baby is born and after she is out of hospital, I’m going to have to leave,’’ Elliott said. ‘‘I need to get back and play football. It’s my job. Having a baby will be the coolest thing that’s happened in my life but flying out will be so difficult. But the good thing is that Robyn is with family and she will be well supported.’’

Elliott paid tribute to club boss Andrew Hill and coach Dean Pay for their support. ‘‘I’ve been training two or three times a day – especially while I was in quarantine – but the phone calls from Andrew and Dean have all been about our welfare and Robyn’s health and how we are coping,’’ he said. ‘‘They have been so supportive.’’

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