By STEVE MASCORD
NRL chief executive David Smith hasn’t just been vindicated by the deal signed with Touch Football Australia – he’s been vindicated by the reaction to it.
If Smith has made his name for anything in his short time in charge of the game in this country, it’s been for ignoring criticism.
Multiplying rugby league’s participant numbers four or five-fold in one fell swoop is not just his first really big triumph but it’s rugby league’s biggest success since peace broke out in the Super League War.
Yet there are those who either see the development as of no significance or of actually being bad. I wonder if these are the same sections of the game’s community who have previously been criticising his management style?
The fact people can still find fault with such a staggering achievement proves David Smith has been right to ignore us all along.
Some of the criticism I have seen on social media has been along the lines of the merger being “a numbers game” and “window dressing”, along with the contention that the merger will somehow make the game at the top level “softer”.
That, or that it is part of an overall strategy to make the game softer.
Discord’s core belief about the way forward for any sport is that it’ objectivs must be to expose itself to more participants and more spectators. Without that aim, there is no reason for administrators to get out of bed in the morning.
It is to be hoped more women, for a start, have a go at full contact rugby league as a result of the new link between the sports. This is a potential boon for the women’s game.
Touch football can also provide us with more spectators, particularly in the “heathen” states, if we market our sport to them intelligently. We can win back a few people we have lost over the years. We can perhaps find more Shaun Johnsons and Matt Moylans and stop them going to rugby union.
But the most significant statement came from the boss of TFA, Colm Maguire, who said: “Touch Football in Australia was born out of Rugby League”.
That’s right, touch was a reaction to the popularity of rugby league so the NRL has every right to bring it BACK under its umbrella.
Of course, rugby union denizens would no doubt have similar argument about annexing league – but in this country, combined, the rugby codes would still be dwarfed by Touch Football!
To compare touch football with “brandings”, “British Bulldog” and “Kiss and catch” is highly amusing but ignores the historical links. If rugby league was not popular in Australia, touch football would not be popular.
But most importantly, as a rugby league fan, I hope David Smith is not reading this. And if he is, I hope he gives it scant regard. I don’t want a leader of my game that cares what some hack thinks.
I want a leader who does what he thinks is right until he doesn’t have a job anymore.
Also, I think we can see why the NRL needs 140 staff when you are doing broad-brush things such as merging sports. Making the most of a decision affecting more than a million participants, can’t be done with two people a couple of mobile phones. It’s a mind-bogglingly complex task.
Discord is hearing that the International Rugby League Federation may soon have a handful of fulltime employees, too, and a physical address!
Give me a second while I get up off the floor.
DISCORD got a phone call this week from Shannon Crane, the man behind the ‘other’ rugby league body in Thailand.
For those who have been following this, you’ll be aware there has only been one game of note in the Kingdom, last year’s “international” between Thailand and the Philippines in Bangkok.
I used quotation marks there because Crane says he registered “Thai Rugby League” as a trademark in mid 2011 and the team fielded against the Tamaraws included players who were not eligible to represent the country under RLIF rules.
Crane, a former Penrith development squad coach who moved to Thailand to pursue business interests in 2004, always intended to start a domestic comp first and was happy to let the other group, led by South Sydney Juniors identity Andrew Charles, do as they wished.
That’s as long as they didn’t infringe on his copyright, which he says they did. This resulted in legal action. Crane hopes to have a six-team domestic competition up and running next year with some big name sponsors.
The RLIF appears to have made no call yet on which group it supports. Crane’s team plays Greece in Bangkok on October 12 with a big domestic pop star Dome Pakorn Lum to perform at halftime.
COMMENTS time and let’s start with last week’s Discord, which concerned itself chiefly with Anthony Milford.