Becoming chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission probably seems like a good idea now for Peter Beattie.
Box seats at State of Origin games and the NRL grand final; the first to shake Cameron Smith’s hand when he lifts another trophy and the challenge of fulfilling the game’s vast potential.
All the trappings of your former life as Queensland Premier without the question-time debate with a One Nation opponent calling for a ban on foreign languages in shopping malls.
And you’ve chosen your predecessor well.
There are deposed third world dictators who have been given fonder farewells than John Grant. (AAP: Paul Miller)
There are deposed third world dictators who have been given fonder farewells than John Grant, your fellow Queenslander who found that winning friends and influencing people in a rough and tumble game isn’t easy — especially when you try too hard to please everyone.
But don’t be fooled by the backslapping of club bosses hoping you will be an easier touch than Grant or the flattery of insecure and underperforming courtiers clinging to their well-paid jobs.
Those who enjoy a warm feeling upon their entry to rugby league administration usually discover too late they are being burned at the stake.
So here are some things to keep in mind when the inevitable faeces hits the cooling device:
Before making any decision, remember you are in charge of a brilliant sport at the peak of its competitive capability.
A game that has remained the toughest of team sports while adding elements of breathtaking skill; one blessed by the athleticism and vitality of a generation of Polynesian superstars.
The NRL has been blessed with a new generation of Polynesian superstars like Jarryd Hayne — but they’re not immune to scandal. (AAP: Paul Miller)
Sure, there is always some tinkering to be done around the edges. But as chairman you are overseeing a competition that — regardless of what serially malcontent media figures and beaten coaches might tell you — doesn’t need much fixing.
How to stay above the fray
On the other hand, there are the NRL clubs — flush with TV rights riches and talented playing stocks some have done little to deserve.
Beware! Don’t let these wolves through your door by altering the current commission model and giving the clubs direct representation at the board room table.
There is an “I” in independent commission. Once it is removed, it will be replaced by a ”me, me, me”. The whine of self-interested war lords whose constant backstabbing and coffee shop revolts have brought the game into utter disrepute.
At Grant’s farewell you said: “As far as I’m concerned the days of the commission being at loggerheads with the clubs are over.”
Give the clubs the power they crave and that statement will be remembered as the greatest piece of wishful thinking since Neville Chamberlain returned from Germany declaring ”peace in our time”.
To force the clubs to adopt reasonable standards of compliance you will need a talented and empowered executive.
If you are to remain above the fray, you can’t do their job for them as your predecessor tried to do.
Your current chief executive Todd Greenberg took some time to find his feet. But his handling of the Parramatta Eels salary cap infractions was first class, and his two-word plea to the game also resonated with true fans: Grow Up!
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg was scathing of the Paramatta Eels board. (ABC News: Jodan Perry)
Be hard on selfish acts of indiscipline
Yes, there are plenty in the playing ranks who won’t heed this message. These thugs and miscreants are enabled by short-sighted club bosses and some coaches who don’t care about the reputational damage caused by turning a blind eye to player misbehaviour.
Worse still, they are doing untold damage to your greatest asset, the vast majority of talented, hard-working players constantly undermined by the misadventures — and far worse — of rogue teammates.
So here’s an idea. Place on your desk a picture of Trent Hodkinson taking terminally ill fan Hannah Rye to her high school formal. Just to remind you that for every drunken atrocity committed by NRL players there are a dozen acts of generosity and kindness.
Hannah and Newcastle Knights player Trent Hodkinson at Kurri Kurri High School’s year 10 formal, which was brought forward so that Hannah could attend. (Supplied: Facebook, Fight for Connar)
Then come down even harder on those whose selfish acts of indiscipline that shame those like Hodkinson who are threatening to give the game a good name.
Speaking of selfish acts of indiscipline, there is the rugby league media.
You’ll find some terrific reporters heavily invested in providing a fair and balanced coverage of a great game and its finest exponents — and that they are constantly undermined by an underbelly of insidious crisis merchants and master manipulators who using the craven camouflage of “holding the game accountable” and ”speaking for the battlers” to do the dirty work of their club contacts and the greediest player agents.
The worst of the rugby league media will attempt to turn you into a dancing bear beholden to their short-sighted agendas and click bait story du jour.
Ignore the inevitable honeymoon period when they tickle your tummy with flattering profiles and gossip column tidbits and stay above their subterranean level. Don’t answer their calls, respond to their muckraking headlines or pay lip service to their confected outrage.
Sure, you will be unfairly pilloried as Grant and his former chief executive David Smith were.
Remember this? John Grant’s scalp was prized when he resigned as chairman last June. (Offsiders)
But take a few shots for the game and you’ll be surprised how quickly the public sees through the thinly disguised agendas and outright bile of the worst of the fourth estate; and how much better the game would be with the fair media coverage it deserves.
And on that inevitable day when a supposed ”refereeing crisis” is compounded by a drunken player urinating on a police car while mutinous clubs are holding secret talks and Jarryd Hayne has left to play beach volleyball?
Remember, you could still be in Queensland politics.