Greenberg’s first contract, signed four years ago, was approved by former ARLC chairman John Grant. Greenberg’s lawyers outsmarted the NRL.
It will raise more questions for an organisation that has been criticised for a bloated front office. It was a theme for Greenberg. A leading coach best summed up his big flaw as an administrator, saying he tried to turn the NRL into the game’s 17th club. He spent too much money on HQ and too much on non-core projects.
Greenberg’s final appearance – with his family by his side at a media conference at his house – angered some at the NRL. They were aware the stage-managed send-off was co-ordinated by NRL staffers, something that should not have been done for a former employee. This is being investigated.
Greenberg’s slick approach was his greatest strength and his biggest weakness, and there is no doubt the arrival of V’landys spelled his end. The pair kept their differences in-house, but Warriors boss Cameron George has spoken about the spat that summed up their relationship.
George had slammed the NRL for not letting the club know where it stood. V’landys was horrified and, in a phone hook-up, put Greenberg on the spot, asking the CEO why the Warriors were not informed.
‘‘It happened and none of that was awkward for me,’’ George said. ‘‘I was caught in the middle of it … of what was going on with them, but that wasn’t my concern. Not one bit. I was doing my best for the Warriors. We had been kept in the dark and when V’landys got involved we were heard and have been since.’’
Andrew Abdo is taking the gamble of his life by accepting the role as acting NRL chief executive following Greenberg’s departure.
There’s no doubt Abdo is the front-runner to secure the top job permanently, as we pointed out in this column last week. He’s the favoured choice of V’landys and that means the job is his to lose.
‘‘He has the opportunity in the job,’’ V’landys said. ‘‘That’s something that others don’t have. The incumbent always has the advantage. He is a very impressive individual. He is very sharp.’’
But, by taking first shot at the job, Abdo is giving his detractors a chance to lobby against him before the final appointment is made.
The campaign against Abdo has already started, with many former players demanding a ‘‘rugby league’’ person take the job. Abdo, a South African, has no history in the game. But he is a smooth operator who knows who to woo and who to ignore to get to the top. His tactic has been to target the key stakeholders in the game: the commissioners and club bosses.
However, like anyone who spends seven years at rugby league headquarters, Abdo also butted heads with people on the way up. That includes some powerbrokers at the NSW Rugby League, who have a strong voice in the game. As it turns out, his main rival for the job is probably the head of the NSWRL, Dave Trodden. That makes for a fascinating contest.
The risk for Abdo is that, if he is not ultimately appointed CEO, his career path is ruined and he would probably leave the game. That would leave the code without its best salesman at a time when it needs revenue more than ever.
Richo right for CEO role: Crowe
Russell Crowe has doubled down on his push for Shane Richardson to become the next NRL boss, ignoring the critics who slammed the idea.
Crowe is the NRL’s most prominent owner. After nearly 15years as the Rabbitohs’ main man, he has plenty of clout. In addition to supporting Richardson, Crowe has endorsed the game’s new powerbroker, V’landys, after an hour-long chat.
‘‘Oddly, Mr V’landys and I did spend quite some time today getting to know each other,’’ Crowe said. ‘‘And talking about player mental health, amongst other pressing topics. He was balanced, thoughtful and clear-headed. Rugby league has a steady hand on the wheel through these times.’’
And Crowe opened up about why Richardson – the architect of South Sydney’s revival and premiership win in 2014 – should be the next NRL chief.
‘‘I look at Shane’s experience at the coal face in clubs, how deep his bloodlines connect right through the code and to me he’s exactly who the chairman needs alongside him,’’ Crowe said.
‘‘He’s a great team man; doesn’t need the trappings of office. A dawn cup of coffee from a van at a local football ground is a luxury in his world. That’s our world. The rugby league world that we have to protect, build – and progress starts with those junior games. From the kids all the way up the chain to the elite players; the whole pyramid of the sport. He was CEO successfully of three clubs. He has taken every first-grade Australian club he has led to a grand final. If you look at the players, administrators and coaches who connect to Richo in his vast and long connection with the game, it’s a veritable who’s who of rugby league. He connects to every club in the game at a personal level.
‘‘Shane has the capacity. Shane gets things done. Shane loves the game, and you need to love the game to understand that the decisions that benefit all the clubs are the decisions that need to be made. The game has to evolve, we have to take advantage of the perspective this sour gift is giving us and make use of it. Richo is a strong personality who is forthright in his views. He makes the bullshitters get the old laughing knees because, one way or the other, he will get to the core of the problem or task at hand. He is relentless. That’s what we need right now.’’
Warriors boss George still has a number of concerns about restarting the NRL competition. And top of the list is the players’ pay and their families.
‘‘It’s bullshit when people say it’s their job and if they want to get paid they need to just move over,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s certainly our intention, but we are dealing with human beings here. Right now they don’t even know what they are going to be paid. And their families. I can’t emphasise to you how absolutely critical it is that the families of our players have clarity about what is going on for them: when they are coming over, how it’s going to happen and we need to know.
‘‘We are working on all of this with the NRL now. Yes it’s an expense for the NRL to bring the families over, but it will be a greater expense if the Warriors are not there. Not that we want that outcome. It’s more than flying the families over, it’s a process we need to get right and manage carefully and, to this point, I appreciate the NRL sharing the same commitment to achieving this with me.’’
Rumours have swept the game that three clubs have been flouting the biosecurity training rules. This column is certain one team was holding fitness sessions in big groups, in contravention of social-distancing requirements, but that’s now stopped. All teams have been told that from now until training officially starts, any breaches will result in serious sanctions.
Rivalry hits the road
Without a doubt the best rugby league-related sight during this whole COVID-19 crisis is the car pooling that has seen Trent Robinson drive Wayne Bennett into the Project Apollo meetings.
Nothing shows the game’s level of co-operation better than the coaches of the NRL’s fiercest rivals driving to work together. So how did it happen?
We told you a couple of weeks back that Bennett was locked out of a meeting being held at the NRL, which was far more embarrassing for head office than the super coach. It turns out Bennett had been left off the parking list. To avoid a repeat, Robinson took matters into his own hands.
Bennett now drives to Robinson’s house, parks there and Robinson drives them to the meetings. Robinson parks underneath NRL HQ to avoid the media. It’s remarkable on so many levels. Not least because Roosters chairman Nick Politis has been angry at Bennett since 2006 when he backed out of a deal to coach the club. The pair haven’t spoken since and Politis is not of a mind to change.
It goes to show that Robinson is very much his own man. And it could even lead to a mending of the ways between Politis and Bennett. Robinson and Bennett are big enough to put their clubs to one side for the good of the game.
Danny Weidler is a sport columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.