Play the ball, not the man.
That was the message from besieged ARL Commission (ARLC) chairman John Grant to NRL club bosses on Tuesday after refusing to stand down over a funding backflip.
Grant said he could understand why NRL chairmen were upset but urged them to stop taking it personally and start showing leadership.
Disgruntled NRL clubs have called an emergency general meeting (EGM) on December 20 in a bid to oust Grant after the ARLC had reneged last Wednesday on a 12-month-old funding agreement.
Clubs require a minimum 14 votes from the game’s 26 shareholders – the 16 clubs, QRL, NSWRL and eight commissioners – to remove him.
Fourteen clubs – excluding the NRL-owned Gold Coast and Newcastle – signed a letter to the ARLC backing the emergency meeting.
Grant said standing down would achieve nothing.
He urged NRL club bosses to stand up for themselves at the EGM and not vote as a group.
“Independence is very important. When you vote as a bloc, you give up your independence,” he said.
“What we are seeing is a loss of independence of the individual clubs.
“To me, it needs leadership that says ‘we are not going down the right track here’.”
Some club chairmen have already vowed to boycott any future meetings with Grant.
But Grant on Tuesday denied his role had become untenable, instead offering to re-open talks with clubs as early as Thursday.
“Will I step down? That’s not being considered at the moment,” said Grant who had held the position for five years.
“My removal is certainly not going to do anything.
“Forget personalities – all the stuff that has gone on in the media.
“Chairmen have an obligation to their clubs to be sitting at the table talking.
“We are letting football politics get in the way of what we really want to do.”
Grant fell out with clubs at a meeting last week after the governing body reneged on an agreement to fund clubs 130 per cent of their salary cap from 2018.
He again apologised on Tuesday for the way the funding backflip news was delivered to the NRL clubs, which had prompted a walkout by some chairmen.
However, he extended an olive branch, saying the ARLC would welcome renewed funding talks with clubs on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday.
Grant was also buoyed on Tuesday by seven fellow ARLC directors offering their unanimous support.
“We need to stop personalising it and start thinking about the game and our clubs,” Grant said.
“We have already apologised for the way the meeting went last Wednesday.
“We should have done a better job of that – but we need to move on.”
Grant declined to comment on whether he had the numbers to survive a vote on his position.
However, he reiterated his reasons the ARLC reneged on the money, citing the need to fund grassroots rugby league.
“We need to focus on the future. We need to stop personalising it,” Grant said.