In for the long haul: Raiders' chairman Allan Hawke.

In for the long haul: Raiders' chairman Allan Hawke. Photo: Rohan Thomson

He’s been on the Canberra Raiders board for more than a decade and grew up on the same Queanbeyan street as outgoing chairman John McIntyre. So will things change under the leadership of new Raiders chairman Allan Hawke? JON TUXWORTH met him to find out.

Q: What convinced you to take on the job?

A: I think John McIntyre was clever enough to get his wife, Anita, to convince my wife, Maria, I should do it. I lived most of my life in Queanbeyan, we lived across the road from the McIntyres in the same street. JR's known me since I was a toddler.

Q: The club has been dubbed a "family farm" by some in the past. How does that sit with you?

A: I know some people have that view. If they want to stump up the money year after year to provide the financial underpinning of the Raiders, let them come and do it. There's a lot of money which comes out of the CDRL and it costs a lot of money to run a football team, [John McIntyre] and his father [club founder Les McIntyre] has been instrumental in that.

Q: Does McIntyre still play an active role on the board?

A: JR's the patron, he's still involved in the Raiders Group and CDRL [Canberra District Rugby League], he has this totemic position as the patron. He doesn't interfere with the board, and he hasn't sought to one iota since he's stood aside.

Q: Under your leadership, does your final decision stand or is the board a genuine democracy?

A: JR was a very good listener. He always went with the consensus view, we've never been unanimous with things. You have your say and, at the end of the day, the decision is made – you support it or, if you feel that deeply about it, you resign.

Q: The Raiders board is appointed by the chairman – how is this board accountable to the Raiders members?

A: It's not entirely appointed by the chairman, but in large part yes. The chairman identifies people who may come on to the board, and then discusses that with the board on who we appoint.

Mike Lightowler stood down and David Thom as welfare manager. We've got one more spot on the board, but whether we need to fill it, we don't know. If a certain woman or women became available, we might contemplate that but we're happy with the composition of the board.

Q: You’ve appointed a new female board member, Yvonne Gillett, this year. How does it change the dynamic of the board?

A: That's certainly been a hobby horse of mine, not just the Raiders board but through my career. Yvonne is a very important step to that end on the Raiders board.

Boards that I'm on that have women on them operate differently. Women bring different things to meetings than men do. I'm not aware the men are any smarter or brighter than they are and if you're looking to attract a family element and attract women to the game, you need to hear that from women on the board. Not from blokes who think they know best.

Q: Would a female voice have brought a different perspective to the sackings of Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson last year?

A: I hope we don't have those incidents again but you're right, they would have brought a different perspective. I'm very proud of the Raiders and my part in standing up to people in the past who have not behaved according to our values we've professed to hold … It's bitten us a bit, some of those top class players coming back and you would have seen that in the past.

Q: But has the decision to sack them been validated?

A: I do feel that, but more than one of the players has had things to say to me privately about those issues. You can sense the different attitude and the different sense of team in this group and they're in it for each other. They're not simply in it for themselves, I get real chuffed when I see how they interact with each other.

Q: Did former coach David Furner pay the price for looking after those players too much?

A: He'll always be part of the Raiders. JR said it best when he said it was like cutting his arm off [sacking Furner]. His view was it probably led him to re-evaluate his position.

Q: Critics have questioned the club’s culture  what's your response to that?

A: I've spent quite some time with the Department of Defence, and we're still dealing with those issues. The issue always is one or two rotten apples will give your whole team a bad image, and it will affect the whole culture of your side. Unless you're prepared to stand up and be counted, you can't expect to build the culture we're trying to build.

Q: Were the players responsible for Furner’s sacking last year?

A: The board takes full responsibility for Dave having to move on. It wasn't a player decision, it wasn't influenced by the players or by the other staff in the organisation. It was a pure board decision. How it got out was a bit unfortunate but that happens. It wasn't the way we planned it. I'm hoping Dave still has a big future and, when he's done and dusted, he'll come back home.

Q: Has there been an increase in football department funding under Ricky Stuart?

A: Most of that happened under Dave Furner. Ricky is reaping the benefits of that and he would be the first to admit it.

Q: How long have the Raiders pursued Stuart and why was he chosen as the best man for the job?

A: There's no doubt he's proven to be the right choice. Have a look at the interaction between he and the team and his support staff, not the slightest reservations. We started off with a somewhat longer list than people may think who might be interested.

Because of Ricky's relationship with David, he would not have had anything to do with any suggestion of undermining David in order for him to get the job. He wouldn't have a bar of that, that's the nature of the bloke.

Ricky isn't the same bloke he was when he left here [as a player in 1999]. If you ever wanted good evidence of that, it was to be in the rooms after the Titans loss [in Round 3] and to see what he said to the players. It was brilliant, he let them think about it for a long time. He used to have that [fiery] reputation, but we all get wiser as we get older. He's just a different person, he's mature in everything he does now.”

Q: Former AIS director Peter Fricker was engaged in December last year to do a high-performance review of the Raiders. Where is that up to?

A: Peter presented to the board in February. His basic assessment was that what we were doing was right up there but he suggested a few other things he may look at in the fullness of time and they're still being assessed. One of the things which has happened is increased use of AIS and Uni [of Canberra], they're good moves in my mind to draw on that expertise. He didn't come in and say you need to change everything, but he did point to examples of some high performing teams around the world and some of the things they were doing a bit different to what we are.”

Q: Do the Raiders have a lot of money under the cap to chase big name players, or is the retention of juniors a priority?

A: We've succeeded in the past because we've put so much money into junior development and been able to bring those kids through and keep them. I think we do as much, arguably more, than most teams in identifying and developing genuinely talented kids. We're hopeful sooner rather than later, in the next year or two, the NRL will come to recognise those clubs that do that and who have disadvantages like we do.

Q: Wests Tigers chief executive Grant Mayer's said the Tigers, Dragons and Raiders should rally for junior concessions. Idle threat or legitimate?

A: Say three years' time, if there is no recognition of this, our board will start to ask some serious questions about, "is this the best place we should be putting our money?" What differentiates us is we're trying to go back to when we succeeded in the past. We're at a bit of disadvantage attracting those marquee players to Canberra, compared to somebody who says "you can come and live at Bondi". I'm very confident we've had a full and fair hearing in front of the NRL and the commission about these issues. Everybody's now waiting to see what will actually happen. All we want is for the NRL to make a decision based on all the evidence in front of them, and we'll support that.

Q: Should there be compensation for developing juniors, like Anthony Milford who has signed with Brisbane next year?

A: If we operated the way soccer does and you had to pay a transfer fee for a kid like Milford, then there would be some justifiable recognition and reward for clubs which identified him, had faith in him and had brought him through, when other clubs didn't identify or develop him. The kid's a real talent. I suspect when he made that comment "I'm here this year and I'll be trying my heart out", there might have been a few people around town who doubted that. I'll bet they're not doubting that now – that kid is as good as his word. He's put in every week.

Q: Is the round 13 rule, which allows players to renege on contracts and stay at their current club, a good rule?

A: It's too early for me to comment on that. It's a rule. You live within the rules and we try hard to make sure we operate within the rules, but also the spirit of the rules.

Q: Are the Raiders disadvantaged by third party sponsorship allowances that bigger clubs use?

A: There's no doubt it's easy to get third party sponsorship in Brisbane or Sydney, and most of the teams who have good rosters are very good third-party sponsorship deals. We're doing OK, but we can't hope to compete in the same league they are, that's the reality.

Q: Do you want to get to a point where you're less reliant on pokies and licensed clubs to fund the Raiders footy club?

A: Huawei's sponsorship ends this year, so we have our fingers crossed they continue, and also make some progress with the NRL in playing a game in Shenzhen [China]. Not really, I think it's where we've come from and a fundamental part of our history. I don't see any reason to change something which isn't broken.

Q: Did the NRL miss an opportunity not taking a game to China this year?

A: It was frustrating and, in retrospect, a bit of a misunderstanding and we probably should have approached it in a slightly different way. I haven't ruled out something on that score happening the next two years and we'll re-energise that discussion. Maybe it was an unfortunate incident of it happening with the new CEO coming in and having to get his feet on the ground … As long as we can re-sign Huawei I think we're in a good place. We'll have an answer by the end of June.

Q: In a very competitive sporting market, what’s a big challenge facing the Raiders?

A: We want to build our membership base and a lot of the clubs who have succeeded around the world have done it through membership. I'm not unhappy with where we are, but going forward we need to do something about that.

The crowds have been down across the board this year. Why is that? We need to have a hard look at why that is. A large part of it relates to cost, the family outing.

Q: How long do you plan on being in the role?

A: I don't have a drop-dead date. Traditionally, when I've taken on roles like this, they've tended to be seven- to 10-year roles. I'm not looking to stand aside next year, I know it's a long haul and I'm confident with what Ricky and his support staff we'll be real competitive the next couple of years.