In seeking to determine whether Andrew Abdo can handle the hotseat that is the NRL chief executive’s role better than his predecessor, look no further than their respective performances in courtroom 18C of the Federal Court just a year ago.
Called as witnesses to a legal challenge of the NRL’s “no fault” stand-down rule, Abdo and Todd Greenberg, who left the NRL on Monday, were subject to the ultimate grillings in the Phillip St courtroom. Greenberg’s reputation for handling curly questions preceded him, but this was the first opportunity to witness Abdo in the face of a blowtorch.
Much to the surprise of those in attendance – journalists, lawyers, former players and other interested onlookers – Abdo gave a better account of himself. Over the course of the four-day hearing, some of those subpoenaed crumbled under the pressure of a relentless cross-examination by a Queen’s Counsel. Even Greenberg, always unflappable in the storm that is a media scrum, had several uncomfortable moments during his six excruciating hours on the stand. Abdo, meanwhile, emerged with his reputation enhanced.
Abdo can expect plenty more pressure to be applied in his new role. In taking over from Greenberg as the NRL’s interim chief executive, he has accepted the toughest role in Australian sport. Several club chief executives – including Brisbane’s Paul White, Melbourne’s Dave Donaghy, the Rabbitohs’ Blake Solly and Canberra’s Don Furner – have been mooted as potential long-term successors to Greenberg. All of them are capable and have their claims. But make no mistake – Abdo wants to make a go of it. It’s his job to lose.