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‘It would be an honour’: Sonny Bill keen to fight Mike Tyson

‘‘I grew up watching Tyson and his fights. It’s hard not to admire the power and ferocity of Tyson like so many other sports people around the world. It would be a humbling and surreal moment in my life to stare at him and know I was facing one of the greats of the sport.”

Neither Williams nor his agent Khoder Nasser were prepared to discuss the comments of Jeff Fenech who said that Williams, Paul Gallen and Barry Hall would be risking their lives by taking on Tyson.

Anasta-Burgess bond too close for NRL’s comfort

Below is a photo that caused widespread angst through the NRL during the week. It is of rising media duo and golf buddies Sam Burgess and Braith Anasta on a Fox Sports program sitting in very close proximity – heightening fears of distancing breaches.

We are certain Fox would have strict rules about its panel shows. But a bigger worry by far was that Burgess declared on the program that he was part of South Sydney’s “top 50” staff who were operating under the club’s strict protocols to participate in the NRL.

True bromance: Sam Burgess and Braith Anasta appear on Fox Sports.

True bromance: Sam Burgess and Braith Anasta appear on Fox Sports.

The rest of the 50 were operating under the home-train-play rule. There was no mention of appearing on Fox panel shows.

I checked it out with the NRL. As soon as I started asking questions I was told Burgess was pulled out of the Souths squad. Clearly there was a breach. He appeared on another Fox show on Thursday.

Hot property: Souths star Cameron Murray.

Hot property: Souths star Cameron Murray.Credit:Getty

Keen viewers of the program have commented on the tight relationship between Burgess and Anasta and how they are becoming a very watchable duo. A watch-this-space situation, though, is Anasta’s jibes at big-name Souths identities, particularly former boss Shane Richardson and owner Russell Crowe. The friendship may also be a handy way to try to bring Souths star Cameron Murray into Anasta’s management stable.

Murray would certainly listen to Burgess, who was the club’s strongest forward for years. Burgess could be the way in for Anasta to gain Murray’s services.

Ill-informed Grant should just keep his mouth shut

The NRL’s attempts to pump up the value of its digital business wasn’t helped by former ARL Commission chairman John Grant returning to the debate this week.

Grant will forever be remembered as the man who gave the clubs the deal of a lifetime when under pressure to keep his job. That deal is arguably the main reason the code is in such a dire financial position now.

But Grant would much prefer if people remembered him for approving the code’s digital business, nrl.com. So when Nine Entertainment – owner of The Sun-Herald – showed interest in acquiring the business during the week Grant was quick off the mark to overstate how much it was worth.

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In the process he managed to show how little he knows about the broadcasting business. Without any analysis he said that if half the NRL’s 1.6 million digital users paid $25 a month to stream matches – plus free-to-air and other revenue – the NRL would produce annual revenue of more than $360m. Alarmingly, he estimated that advertising revenue would offset production costs.

The NRL already employs 70 people to run its digital business. There are television newsrooms with fewer staff than that. It is a significant reason numbers at the league’s head office have blown out of control over the last two years.

Grant neglected to mention the heavy cost to set up cameras and equipment for each match – before they start paying a commentary team. Last season rugby league lost $25m for Nine. That might even be a conservative figure.

What Grant didn’t mention is that everyone who goes to the NRL’s website gets free information – team lists, the ladder and the draw. Converting them to take up a paid subscription is an entirely different proposition. He also appears to be suggesting that the NRL could dump Fox Sports and do its own broadcasting.

With Peter V’landys locked in talks all week trying to do a deal with Fox Sports, this was hardly the right time to suggest the NRL could end the partnership.

V’landys’ $1 million headache

Peter V’landys is trying hard to clean out the head office administration he inherited – but it is proving to be a costly exercise.

As this column revealed two weeks ago, former chief executive Todd Greenberg secured a payout of $650,000 when he left the business last month. It may have been closer to $700,000 when leave owing and other entitlements are factored in.

During the week chief financial officer Tony Crawford was also sent packing. While his payout is still being negotiated, it is likely to be about $350,000. That’s $1m out the door at a time when the game is on its knees financially.

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A big problem for the NRL is that it delivered generous bonuses to its executive team at the end of last year despite a difficult year when ratings and crowds declined, confidence in referees and the match review system fell to an all-time low and grand final day was tainted by several refereeing controversies. And it has since emerged that even the strong financial results were skewed by the fact the NRL has underpaid the player retirement fund by $10m over the last two years.

Crawford – and other executives facing the axe – will be able to argue that it was only a few months ago the NRL thought they were doing such a good job they were given hefty bonuses. Some received more than $150,000 on top of their generous wages. So it makes it difficult to terminate them on performance grounds. V’landys now has to work out how he can continue to cull his executive team without sending the code too much further into the red. The only certainty is that the easy bonuses handed out at head office will become a thing of the past.

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