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Why it’s high time Gladys put the NRL in its place

Essentially, the NRL chair Peter V’landys is arguing the case of rugby league exceptionalism, that the social isolation rules that apply to everyone else should not apply to them. AFL has much less contact than NRL and even they can’t contemplate coming back before July.

In response to the NRL’s insistence, however, both the Queensland and Victorian premiers have been clear: “Not on your Nelly.” With commendable leadership they have dismissed it out of hand and Channel Nine – a little late in the piece and maybe for not entirely the same reasons – is also not convinced.

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Who is missing right now is the NSW government. I think. For I cannot follow it. I believe we had, yes, the Police Commissioner signing a letter saying it was OK? Or maybe that was the Health Minister signing a letter giving a big tick to the police force?

The point is, where are you, Premier Gladys?

Does this get the go-ahead, or not? Are some people going to be still banned from seeing Grandma through anything bar a centimetre of glass, while others are not allowed to even attend the funerals of their nearest and dearest, but . . .

But it is OK for the rugby league lads to wrestle sweat and burst breath all over each other for five or six days a week, before they go home to their families? Is that your position? If so, I respectfully ask:

What is your own case for rugby league exceptionalism?

Rugby league returning on May 28 is 'absolute madness', says Peter FitzSimons.

Rugby league returning on May 28 is ‘absolute madness’, says Peter FitzSimons.Credit:AAP

If it is good enough for them, why is it not good enough for the rest of us?

Personally, this seems to me to be absolute madness, Premier. If you are going to open things up, so be it. But giving the green light to rugby league while the rest of us will have been stuck on red at the traffic lights for the past two months seems to be taking an insane and unnecessary risk.

Essentially, the NRL chair Peter V’landys is arguing the case of rugby league exceptionalism, that the social isolation rules that apply to everyone else should not apply to them.

Essentially, the NRL chair Peter V’landys is arguing the case of rugby league exceptionalism, that the social isolation rules that apply to everyone else should not apply to them.Credit:John Shakespeare

With the admittedly huge exception of the Ruby Princess, your government has done well on coronavirus. But are you really going to be forcing the resignation of your own Minister, Don Harwin, and nailing a $1000 fine to his head, just for going to his own holiday home on the Central Coast – you negligent bastard, how dare you!? – while saying that from late next week the leaguies are good to start training? We know rugby league has sway in this town, but does it have that much sway?

That would be like saying proper resources for community and kids sport can get nicked, while we put billions of dollars to stadiums for rugby league and . . .

And, oh, wait!

Gladys, it is a nonsense, and you must know it. If you give the green light to league, you must give the green light to us all. If that is the case, can we all be told, too?

At the very least you, and the NRL, have to make a compelling case for rugby league exceptionalism. Right now, it ain’t obvious.

Agreeing to disagree

In the wake of Nick Farr-Jones and me firing shots from opposite sides of the rugby parapet this week, I have been bemused by several people wondering how we are going as friends?

The answer is – notwithstanding a few tight, taut texts – fine! The position remains, either he will carry my coffin, or I will carry his. We have disagreed many on things for exactly 40 years, this year, and if this disagreement is stronger than most, so be it.

I strongly disagree with his contention that Raelene Castle pulled the wrong rein on Israel Folau, as it obvious to me and most that in the face of that conflagration she and the board had no choice but to react the way they did.

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I have no clue specifically what the 10 Wallaby captains want the new board and new CEO to do that the old board and former CEO weren’t doing, beyond the motherhood blandishments contained in the letter. And I equally think that the optics of the 11 captains – Michael Lynagh later withdrew his signature – signing the letter 24 hours before Ms Castle was harassed from office were terrible.

Whoever takes over from Castle – Farr-Jones is publically pushing hard for Phil Kearns – will have an enormous job ahead to bring the rugby community back together and convince the mob that it is not a case of the boys from Boys Club breaking the door down and charging in so they can be put back in charge.

But against all that, I equally accept that the collective motivation of the signatories of the letter was only for the good of rugby. Farr-Jones personally remains the greatest and longest-standing servant of the game in Australia and has my deep respect for that, among many things. In short, rugby supporters, stay tuned. We will be back, after this brief brawl.

Anna’s mind Games

The biography Anna Meares: Now came out this week, and there are some cracker yarns in it.

It was a few weeks out from the 2012 London Olympics see, and our greatest ever track cyclist was about to take on not just Great Britain’s world champion, Victoria Pendleton, aka ‘Queen Victoria’, but her parochial British fans as well. It is daunting, but her coach Nick Flyger has an idea. Why not approach John Eales, who is working with the Australian Olympic team as an athlete liaison officer …

Anna Meares at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Anna Meares at the London 2012 Olympic Games.Credit:Brendan Esposito

“He has faced the New Zealand haka,” says Flyger. “If you’re going to face Victoria Pendleton in front of her home crowd, then you need to take some gold from him.”

It is all arranged.

“So, John, what was your secret?” Anna asks.

Eales explains. It’s all about the set-up. Let them do their haka, their explosions of joy and rage and all the rest. But . . .

But then sort yourself to have enough time between the finish of the haka, and the start of the match. In the case of the Wallabies it was wearing the track-suits for the haka, and then taking your time taking them off and lining up for the kick-off. In your case, Anna, you’ll work it out.

Done.

For the gold medal race at the velodrome in London, where the crowd noise reached levels akin to that of a jet plane, Pendleton is first on the track. Where is Anna? She and her coach are still on the edge of track, discussing tactics. By the time they reach the start, the crowd has gone quiet. Queen Victoria looks nervous. Anna charges to a famous victory.

A happy ending? Yes, and it gets happier still.

She and Nick Flyger are now a couple and in February welcomed their first child, a daughter named Evelyn.

What They Said

Raelene Castle resigns as CEO of Rugby Australia: “In the last couple of hours, it has been made clear to me that the board believes my no longer being the CEO would help give them the clear air they believe they need. The game is bigger than any one individual — so this evening I told the chair [Paul McLean] that I would resign from the role.”

Todd Greenberg: “It has been my great honour and privilege to be the CEO of the NRL for the last 4 years. Despite the variety of challenges and pressures I have loved every single minute of the journey. Our growth over the last 4 years has been extraordinary and I am very proud of my contribution to the game.”

@Steele_sports comments on Twitter, as the second CEO of a major football code bites the dust in three days: “First Covid-19 now the sequel CEO-2.”

@marty_McFly_01: “No live action so league and union engage in a foot-shooting contest.” I think rugby union is just ahead at the moment, but it may have to come down to golden point. Who shoots the last little toe off first, wins.

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Excerpt from the letter signed by a slew of Wallaby captains and sent to incumbent chair Paul McLean: “In recent times, the Australian game has lost its way. It is a defeat inflicted not by COVID-19, or an on-field foe, but rather by poor administration and leadership over a number of years. We speak as one voice when we say Australian rugby needs new vision, leadership and a plan for the future. That plan must involve, as a priority, urgent steps to create a much-needed, sustainable, commercial rugby business.” Michael Lynagh withdrew his name the next morning.

Tony Shaw, himself a distinguished Wallaby captain, on the letter signed by his brethren: “I’m gobsmacked. Why put it in the public domain when you have a chairman, who was a captain, just like you, who’s done every job in rugby known to man – from player, captain, coach, administrator and president – and worked his butt off to work through the pandemic fallout in a short time frame?”

Peter V’Landys won’t replace Greenberg with himself: “I’ve made that clear that I won’t do it. I’m not interested in it and I’ve never been interested in doing it. I don’t think it’s appropriate: there needs to be a segregation between the board and management. I’ve always believed in proper corporate governance, so it would be hypocritical to do anything other than that.”

A Nine spokesperson on the NRL’s intended restart on May 28: “Although we agree constructive discussions have been held between the NRL, Nine and Foxtel, we feel it’s premature to be confirming a start date at this stage.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in response to the NRL’s claim that the governments have signed off on the plan to restart the comp: “There is no detailed plan. I call on the NRL to submit that detailed plan and I will immediately forward it to [Queensland Chief Health Officer] Dr Young for her consideration and to report back to me.”

Marty McFly, one of the Twitterati: So a couple of hundred players, staff, broadcasting types and assorted hangers on can gather for a game of league but only a handful of my mates can see me off if I drop dead tomorrow? Working man’s game?”

Cricket umpire Ian Gould on Australian cricket eventually crossing the line: “I believe Australia were out of control leading up to the ball-tampering issues. Deep down, we [umpires] let them down in that we should have nailed them three years previously but we let it go, let it go, let it go and it just exploded.”

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Australian cyclist Rohan Dennis on social media. He later deleted his accounts: “Day 34 – cracked and left the house. #covid19 can suck my ass and so can #quarantine.” I protest. Among other things, in Australia, it is spelt “arse.”

Arsenal supporter Aaron Hughes on Chelsea player Jorginho sending a personal message to his girlfriend: “He’s Chelsea’s vice-captain and gives off this family-man image and there he is sending texts to my girlfriend. What sort of example is that? What made it even worse, as an Arsenal fan, was to see him score against us in December. They ended up winning. That just added to my pain.”

Collingwood football star Mason Cox, an American, after watching a protester against isolation in his homeland proclaim, “What do I say to the science? I say I don’t believe your science, because I believe my God.” “Well after seeing that I don’t know that I’m ever going to leave Australia again. US, it’s been real but I’m out.”

Team of the Week

Todd Greenberg. Started the week as the CEO of Rugby Australia. Finished it, like too many Australians right now, unemployed.

Raelene Castle. Started the week as the CEO of Rugby Australia. Finished it, like too many Australians right now, unemployed.

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Peter V’Landys. His psychological grip on the denizens of rugby league seems to have strengthened in recent weeks. Odd that a bloke unknown to the broad mass of the league community – at least as a football figure – until a couple of years ago should now be the one laying down the law and cracking the whip even to people who’ve been in the game for 40 years!

Liverpool. Never do things the easy way. Without Corona, they would have, I’m told, won the league a long time ago.

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