MELBOURNE Storm’s CEO-in-waiting Mark Evans says rugby league does not have to fight tooth and nail with the AFL in Victoria and instead all sport should be trying to attract people away from other leisure pursuits.
In his first interview since being tapped by the club’s potential new owners to take over from chief executive Ron Gauci, the high profile English rugby union administrator has outlined how he became involved, what stage takeover talks had reached and his initial impressions of the Australian sports scene.
Asked if was ready to roll up his sleeves and battle AFL, Evans said: “No, I don’t think so.
“I think it’s about doing a good job yourself as a sport and competition. If do that, nine times out of 10 people will come and watch.
“When I was in Australia recently, I noticed some cultural differences. In the UK, sport sees itself as a competitor with other leisure activities, like going to the cinema or whatever.
“You rarely have sports saying ‘we have to keep ahead of …’ and name another sport.
“In most markets, rugby league and rugby union are not really competitors. Australia might be a bit different in that regard.
“Melbourne is different in that there are nine AFL clubs, rugby league, rugby union and two soccer clubs. But you just have to do your own job well and if you do that hopefully enough people will do what you want them to.”
Evans declined to comment on the identity of the London-based consortium which approached him to run the Storm but said he had initially conducted an informal, in-person assessment of the NRL and world premiers for the group before agreeing to be CEO.
He added the sale of the club remained imminent – although his return to London last week was a sign that it would not be a matter of days away.
“It’s close but not done,” he said. “You can never say it’s guaranteed until it’s done.”
The former CEO of Harlequins and Saracens and a consultant this year’s Rugby League World Cup, Evans said Melbourne was a “wonderful place” but he would not leave his London-based consultancy without regrets
“It’s not Somalia, is it?” he said when asked about the lifestyle change. “I like what I am doing here in London but at the same time, this is an opportunity … it came out of the blue.”
On the field, coach Craig Bellamy is convinced defensive frailties exposed by Canberra last week have been resolved for Sunday’s trip to Penrith.
“We have to make sure we make teams work hard to score tries and not give them a saloon passage through,” Bellamy told reporters at training.
“We individualised what we thought we needed to individualise. Some of that came from the rest of the team, some of it came one-on-one.
“Hopefully we’ve covered those areas and those guys can be sharper this week.
“We’re certainly not going to over-react and start jumping at shadows.”
Last Saturday’s loss ended a 15-game winning streak for the Storm but Bellamy contended “losses don’t seem to affect younger players as much as they used to.”
New signing Dayne Weston was not named in the side to play his former club Penrith at Centrebet Stadium on Sunday.
Filed for: THE AGE