On their own: NRL boss Dave Smith will soon have to make do without his media and communications director John Brady following his resignation. Photo: Anthony Johnson
It is one of the toughest jobs in Australian sport and, after 18 years, John Brady has resigned. Most fans would not know his name - and that's the way he has preferred it - but the NRL's long-serving media and communications director has had a massive influence on how the game is governed.
While his title may suggest to many he merely writes press releases and talks to journalists, the cheering by some leading club officials when they learnt the news on Wednesday afternoon shows Brady does a lot more behind the scenes than many will ever know.
To get an understanding of Brady's role since being recruited by former ARL chief executive John Quayle at the outbreak of the Super League war, think of Tony Blair's former director of communications and strategy Alastair Campbell or the fictional Sir Humphrey Appleby from television's Yes Minister program.
In other words, he knows better than almost anyone else still involved in the game where the bodies are buried, and has been a major contributor in shaping policy under six chief executives - Quayle, Neil Whittaker, David Moffett, David Gallop, Shane Mattiske and Dave Smith.
Brady was involved when the ARL and News Ltd negotiated the Super League peace deal that led to the formation of the NRL in 1998, and he was one of four officials in the room when the penalties against Melbourne Storm for salary cap cheating were decided in 2010.
From player behaviour, to match fixing, to gambling, to doping, to the salary cap; there is not an issue in the game Brady isn't on top of, and he sits on a number of committees including the NRL's welfare and education committee.
His departure may not be as dramatic as that of Gallop's 15 months ago but it is as significant in marking the beginning of a new era for the game's administration.
For better or worse, Smith and his new-look management team will be on their own when he finishes in December.
Some believe Brady is ''the first domino to fall'' in a shake-up of the NRL's senior administration, but Fairfax Media was told Smith wanted Brady to stay on.
However, with his 55th birthday on Sunday, Brady has decided it was time to move in another direction and stunned NRL staff when he advised them of his resignation on Wednesday.
Not all in club land were celebrating either, with one experienced media manager saying she regularly sought counsel from Brady and knew others in the game who did too.
As a journalist dealing with Brady, he could be abrasive and stubborn and took issue over any part of a story he felt was incorrect or unfair to the NRL, but he also understood the media better than many of those who still work in it.
How much the game misses him won't be clear until the first crisis after he has left.
Twitter - @BradWalterSMH