ARLC chairman Peter V’landys is becoming as pleasant as a nasal swab for AFL


Then V’landys suggested the Melbourne Cup should be moved from the first weekend in November to later in the month. Didn’t Melbourne get its Gucci ponchos in a knot over that one?

Now, Shepherd is watching V’landys become rugby league’s imperial leader during the COVID-19 crisis and sees history repeating.

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man,” Shepherd said of the pugnacious ARL Commission chairman.

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V’landys thrives on being told he can’t do something and then pulling it off. Even better if he can get up Melbourne’s nose at the same time.

He’s becoming a nasal swab for the AFL, jammed so far up its left nostril it feels like an eyeball is about to pop out as rugby league inches closer to the impossible dream of a May 28 restart.

The AFL chitterati scoffed when V’landys flagged a resumption so soon. Plenty in the NRL thought the same thing, this column included. Even members of Project Apollo argued it would be “better optics” to start in June.

In Melbourne, where newsreaders seemingly mispronounce V’landys’ name on purpose, he was slammed for being “premature”, “arrogant” and “disrespectful”. Club chairmen like Hawthorn’s Jeff Kennett lined him up as “totally irresponsible, absolutely irresponsible!”

Now some in the AFL are breaking ranks.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick applauded the NRL for “aspirational-type leadership”, earning a rebuke from Collingwood president Eddie McGuire and Bombers legend Matthew Lloyd.

Others are following.

“So how can we be critical of the NRL for setting a date now in a month’s time for wanting to come back and be aspirational?” asked Kane Cornes on Footy Classified.

Regardless of where you stand on the May 28 restart, of this you can be assured: V’landys doesn’t care what anyone says.

Peter V’landys and Gillon McLachlan.Credit:Digital image

Last week, he declared publicly not once but twice that the Australian Border Force had granted the New Zealand Warriors an exemption to enter the country.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied this was the case. Not once but twice. “No amount of reporting it will change that decision,” Morrison said at his Friday morning media conference.

On Saturday morning, the Warriors were granted the exemption, just as V’landys had promised. On Sunday, they locked down in quarantine in Tamworth. And on Monday, they and the rest of the NRL’s 480 players underwent an “education day” about the strict biosecurity protocols they must adhere to if the season is to rebooted.

Meanwhile, in the AFL, it’s still in the “bubbles and hubs” stage. Rugby league binned the “bubbles and hubs” idea weeks ago.

The NRL should resist cranking up the victory march quite yet.

For starters, V’landys had an easier task. The AFL is a bigger monster, with teams in every state. Most of them are based in Victoria, where Premier Daniel Andrews has been more cautious than other states in loosening coronavirus restrictions.

It’s also been so prudent with its finances over the years, having secured a $600m line of credit against more than $1bn in assets, that it can survive until March next year without playing a minute of footy.

The NRL does not have that luxury. Its mad rush to May 28 is about one thing: money. There wasn’t enough put away for a rainy day and when it started pouring in late March it turned out only $120m had been tucked away.

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From that moment, V’landys put a flag in the sand and has been bending everything and everyone around it, including prime ministers and premiers.

As he does so, it places increasing pressure on the AFL to get its show started.

Asked if there was some personal satisfaction in getting the jump on the AFL, V’landys told Sports Sunday: “Not all. I haven’t even looked at the AFL. Their challenge is greater than us, they’ve got teams throughout Australia. They have geographical challenges. We just set ourselves our own target date.”

Nobody who knows V’landys was buying it.

“Stuff beating the AFL,” offered one long-time racing official. “He’d be more worried about beating the rest of the world.”

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