NRL’s big issues: Smith and Grant

ARLC CHAIRMAN JOHN GRANT AND OUTGOING NRL CEO DAVE SMITH ON RUGBY LEAGUE’S BIG ISSUES:

SMITH ON WHY HE’S LEAVING:

“I’ve decided the time is right for me to move on. The reason for that is rugby league has finished an unbelievable year with one of the biggest and best grand finals we have ever had. It’s been an exceptional year by any standards.

“Rugby league is stronger and healthier than ever before. We are now financially robust and have distributed more funding than ever before to clubs, states and into game development whilst, at the same time, building strong reserves and a strong balance sheet for our future years.”

GRANT ON SMITH’S LEGACY:

“It’s worth reflecting on what the game has moved to in the past three years in that our marquee Origin and finals series are the strongest they’ve ever been, the international game has rediscovered its mojo … the reinvigoration of the All Stars and the entire new formats of Auckland Nines and World Club Series.”

SMITH ON TV BROADCAST DEAL:

“We have done a landmark deal with our free-to-air partners that means more free (coverage) for our fans. I haven’t met a fan who has complained about that quite frankly and I don’t think you ever will.

“We set ourselves precisely and deliberately a two-and-a-half year time frame to sell the rights. Those rights, especially for content that is as unique as ours … will continue to grow exponentially. I have every confidence that we will do an amazing rights deal that will be contemporary and set for the future for our fans. I wouldn’t be leaving if I didn’t think that was the case.”

GRANT ON TV DEAL:

“We have got an amazing free-to-air deal in place, everything that Dave has described. It is comfortable for people in the media to think everything is around the point person but there is a broad team of people who are engaged in these discussions with the broadcasters and these people and these discussions are continuing. We have two years to make it happen; we were never going to be rushed about this.”

SMITH ON THE ASADA SAGA:

“There was never going to be an amazing outcome and I actually went to Canberra on ‘day one’ (into the job). I hadn’t actually started when I was summoned down to Canberra. You only have to look at where Cronulla, under Damian Keogh’s leadership this year, ended up with the job they did on the field this year. Through that whole saga, and you can have your opinions to how it was managed one way or another, but through that we created an Integrity Unit, which is a significant backbone to the off-field strengthening of this game … I’m proud of what we did as a game.”

SMITH ON THE HEALTH OF THE 16 CLUBS:

“The clubs are doing an amazing job. They are much stronger as an organisation. You have much stronger boards, and they are doing an amazing job connecting with their fans. There has been real progress and I have enjoyed working with the clubs.

“There have been differences but there always will be. My job was to come in and change some of these things and create some momentum and I feel I have done that. Is it finished? It is never finished.”

SMITH ON HIS ‘ONE PUNCH AND YOU ARE OFF’ POLICY:

“I am very proud of that. This is an amazingly tough gladiatorial sport, an amazing thing to watch. It is enhanced by the fact it is tough and it is close and it is skilful, it is not enhanced by gratuitous violence. What gratuitous violence does it narrow your audience, not widen it, so I am really proud of those (including the shoulder charge) sorts of things.

“The fact that the on-field player welfare issues has been taken so seriously by all over the past three years, whether it be dangerous lifting tackles or violence.

“I’m also proud of any impact it may have had upon society where it is not okay to coward punch somebody on a Saturday night in Kings Cross.”

SMITH ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN RUGBY LEAGUE:

“There is absolutely no place for domestic violence in our game. It is abhorrent, it is an area we feel very strongly about stamping that out as best we can.

“Fans don’t want to read all this rubbish about the superstars getting themselves into trouble.

“People have to make good choices and, if they don’t, there are consequences.”

GRANT ON TODD GREENBERG AS POSSIBLE SMITH SUCCESSOR:

“We purposefully brought on people in Dave’s tenure as CEO who could potentially be successors to him over the long term. That was the plan. In our search for his replacement, it’s an internal and external search and we’re hopeful internal candidates stick their hand up. The end job for the Commission is to get the right person.”

SMITH ON HIS IMFAMOUS ‘BENJI BARBA’ GAFFE:

“You have good days and you have bad days; of course, you regret those sort of things. I don’t think people will judge where this organisation is based on whether you get someone’s name right or wrong.”

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