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Back in the game: How Steve Waugh lured Todd Greenberg to cricket

Then in December he was spotted having coffee in Sydney’s eastern suburbs with Australian fast bowler Pat Cummins, the Test vice-captain and an ACA director who was on a brief break from the national team’s biosecurity bubble during the limited-overs games against India.

For Greenberg the clincher, however, were two face-to-face meetings with former Test captain Steve Waugh. The two have known each other for years, first crossing paths when Greenberg was a first-grader for Randwick Petersham and, in the days when internationals still turned out occasionally for their club teams, Waugh was playing for Bankstown.

They got to know each other further during Greenberg’s time at the Canterbury Bulldogs. The then CEO even enlisted Waugh, a diehard Bulldogs supporter, to help him persuade Sonny Bill Williams to stay before he walked out on the club for French rugby in 2008.

Waugh, who was a senior Australian player when the ACA was established in 1997, holds no formal title now in Australian cricket but remains an influential figure.

While he couldn’t get SBW over the line, he convinced Greenberg to be the vocal, well-connected and commercially savvy advocate they were searching for.

After 13 years in the headlights as Canterbury chief, NRL head of football and then CEO of that code itself, he will now spend his time representing the interests of national cricket captains Tim Paine and Meg Lanning all below them after being announced as the new ACA chief on Monday.

It’s a position of less profile and considerably less pay than $1 million plus he was on at the height of his career in rugby league.

Greenberg with Foxtel CEO Patrick Delaney and Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley at the SCG Test against India earlier this month.

Greenberg with Foxtel CEO Patrick Delaney and Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley at the SCG Test against India earlier this month.Credit:Getty

But it is a chance to stamp his name on a sport in which he represented Australia at the Maccabiah Games.

Ironically, Greenberg was often criticised in his former working life for being too close to the players. He was hammered when the NRL gifted Cameron Smith’s wife, Barb, an expensive ring on the occasion of Smith’s 400th NRL game and attracted scrutiny for communicating personally with the likes of Sam Burgess when they ran into trouble.

That closeness, though, obviously enhanced his appeal to Australia’s cricketers.

“There is not doubt that Todd is very much a players’ leader,” said former Australian all-rounder and players’ association president Shane Watson, who spoke to players about Greenberg before the appointment was confirmed on Monday. “We feel incredibly lucky to have Todd leading our organisation.“

Greenberg comes on board with the players having had an often toxic relationship with Cricket Australia in recent years, never worse than when they were locked out during an industrial crisis in 2017.

The deal that was eventually struck then, allowing the players to keep a share of the game’s revenue, runs out at the end of next year.

Greenberg, who is no stranger to pay disputes with players from his time at the NRL, could find himself in another one, this time on the opposite side of the table to a governing body.

Rather than thinking about the next pay agreement for the game, however, he is more intent on continuing to rebuild the bridges that were torn down last time around.

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“We’ve got to build trust between the players and CA and we’ve got to build trust right back,” Greenberg said. “That’s going to take a little bit of time. But what you’ll get from me is someone who is very relationship focused … who will talk very openly and honestly about issues.”

An excellent communicator with direct lines to prime ministers and premiers and inside knowledge of broadcast deals and sport’s commercial arena, Greenberg had appeared a probable candidate to be the CEO of Cricket Australia itself following the exit of Kevin Roberts last year.

But with CA’s interim chief Nick Hockley likely to retain the job after managing the game during the COVID-19 crisis, he has found another avenue into the sport.

Whether or not Greenberg ends up with a shot at running cricket down the track depends on how the next few years pan out. But he is back in the game.

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