What next for the NRL? Here's Laurie Daley's verdict

Now that former NRL CEO Todd Greenberg (right) has left the building, ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys is expected to shake up the organisation to ensure a viable future for the game.
Now that former NRL CEO Todd Greenberg (right) has left the building, ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys is expected to shake up the organisation to ensure a viable future for the game.

There was a certain sense of inevitability about the demise of NRL CEO Todd Greenberg this week.

I've always been a supporter of Todd.

I think he is a really good bloke who has been front and centre in one of the toughest, most demanding jobs in sport, simply because of the number of stakeholders and the fact you are never going to be able to please them all.

I certainly don't envy the job of whoever comes in to take over because they are going to be making some really harsh financial decisions that will impact big time on people's lives and the lives of their families.

The whole costing structure of the game is going to go under the microscope because what this pandemic has laid bare is the fact there is far too much fat in rugby league.

Every area of the business will have to take cuts, some more significant than others.

But while it looks like a daunting task to undertake, it really is a massive opportunity for the decision-makers of our game to reset, start over and run a fine-toothed comb through the entire operation to see what is working and what isn't and come up with some new strategies to reinvent, in some circumstances, how we are doing things.

HEAD OFFICE:

The cost-cutting will have to start at the top and if head office is as "bloated" as we are led to believe, there will be some big changes.

Unfortunately, there are probably going to be a lot of people who will lose their jobs and others at the executive level who won't be earning the sort of money they have been.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys will, I'm certain, be demanding a far leaner administration, working to a tighter budget but still being able to get things done at a professional and grass-roots level.

CLUBS:

NRL clubs will be forced to make cuts simply because I can't see them being given the same level of financial support from the governing body.

Their annual $13 million grants won't be as generous so that has to filter down and impact on staff numbers across the board with cuts in how much coaches earn for example.

What it will do is fully expose the clubs that haven't been well run and it's going to be a war of attrition from now on because the NRL has made it clear, even before the virus struck, that they are not going to bail clubs out in the future.

What I would say is I think expansion is now probably off the table for at least the next three to five years.

I can't see the NRL seriously considering adding more teams in the current environment and the only way I can see new franchises coming in is if an existing club falls over.

PLAYERS:

There is no doubt players will take a hit along with everyone else but I'm not so sure it will be as big a whack as many are predicting.

It's been suggested the salary cap could come down from almost $10 million to around $7.5 million.

I don't think it will be that severe.

One thing V'landys has done really well in racing is he has looked after all the participants - the horse trainers and owners - basically the stars of the show.

So I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't go as hard in that area.

The players will definitely have to take a haircut but you have to remember they are the people providing the entertainment and putting their bodies on the line.

Where changes might come is in the size of the squads.

They could bring full-time squad numbers down from 30 to say 25 and have the lower tier players on part-time contracts.

I know it's controversial but I think it's also the right time to seriously have another look at introducing a player draft.

What drafts around the world in other sports do is give teams a greater opportunity to rebuild their lists quicker and it would become another add-on for the game to drive revenue because of all of the media attention they draw for advertisers and sponsors.

GAME SAVINGS:

If I'm looking at the game itself and where savings can be made, I'd be happy to immediately get rid of the bunker for starters and go back to one referee officiating instead of two and maybe cut back on your full-timers.

We also need to re-engage more with sponsors and at grass-roots level by making games more accessible to people.

Look at doing things differently with scheduling. Maybe look at playing more double-headers and just make it more affordable for fans to go.

GRASS ROOTS:

I'm a big advocate for grass-roots footy which, in my opinion, is an area that doesn't get enough attention, particularly footy in the bush. Our entire strategy around the needs of bush footy has to be looked at and addressed. Now is the right time for that.

And it's not just the bush, we need the game to have a strong presence everywhere at all levels and I'm talking women's footy and juniors from under 7's right through to the senior grades and to the tiers underneath the NRL.

  • Laurie Daley is a former Raiders five-eighth and Australian representative. He won three premierships and played 244 games across 14 seasons with the Green Machine, as well as 21 Tests and 23 Origin games for NSW. He was a captain at all three levels and also coached the Blues for five series.
This story What next for the NRL? Here's Laurie Daley's verdict first appeared on The Canberra Times.