THROUGH a search that has spanned the globe and lasted six months, the ARLC - or at least the recruitment firm entrusted with the job of representing the league commission - found their man in Sydney in September. Even if he came via the Welsh town of Pontypridd.
John Mumm, who heads the recruitment firm Spencer Stuart, called Dave Smith, the chief executive of Lloyds International, and asked him if he would be interviewed. So about 10 weeks ago, that interview, with Spencer Stuart executives, occurred.
Between then and Friday, when he was confirmed as the NRL chief executive, he would be interviewed six more times. ''It was pretty hard yakka,'' said the ARLC chairman, John Grant. ''Of course the proof is always in the eating, but we're absolutely confident [we have the right man].''
The recruitment firm had first drawn up a hit-list, which included those who had expressed an interest and those who had been identified. Smith was one of the latter. The hit-list became a shortlist, which after several rounds of interviews became two potential candidates a month ago. About three weeks ago, the eight-person commission nominated Smith as its preferred candidate - but not before another interview with his prospective employer.
''By then, he was our preferred candidate - one of the commissioners had to say, 'No, I can't see it','' Grant said. ''But you've also got to try and make sure you keep the candidate interested. We were very conscious of that, too.''
The first time Grant met Smith, it was Smith's ''experience'' that was impressive. ''He is a CEO,'' Grant said. ''He's been a heavy-duty CEO for a long time, and you can tell them straight away; the way they think, the way they express themselves.
''You've got to take into account the track record, the very difficult environment within the financial sector, which has been under enormous stress. He's had a very tough job, and he's done extraordinarily well. When you put that together with the knowledge, and the confidence he exudes … he was impressive right from the start.''
It wasn't right from the start, of course. David Gallop was sacked in June. The ARLC had targeted the No.2 at the AFL, Gillon McLachlan, who turned down the rival organisation.
''There's no doubt we've had twists and turns along the way, and I'm not going to elaborate on those,'' Grant said. ''That happens with any recruitment. Suffice to say, he [Smith] came up early in the process, and through the interview with the recruitment company, he got himself into the process.''
How he stayed in the process but was not publicly named in the process was a remarkable aspect of it. The appointment was finalised at a commission meeting on Tuesday, with even senior management only informed days before Friday's announcement.
''We kept it to a very narrow group,'' Grant said. ''You need to keep it confidential until it's appropriate. It doubles up. It's not only confidentiality from our point of view, it's confidentiality from the candidate's point of view. It was imperative to do that.
''Had it not been kept confidential, I think it would have been high risk that he wouldn't have been here as our CEO.''
Smith added: ''I think for a role like this, for a senior role, it is kind of crucial to keep it confidential. Confidentiality is just a crucial part of running a business.
''Frankly, leaks shouldn't happen. I know they do but I have been so impressed by the way this whole process has been managed. It was a very thorough process and it was one of the best I have been through. I spoke to each and every one of the commissioners - at length - and it was a really good open discussion.
''That was really important for me because, as you will appreciate, this is a terrific job. But like any job you have got to know you can achieve it and you have got to know that you have the support of the board. And I absolutely got it.''
It didn't seem to matter to Smith that he was not the ARLC's first choice. ''This was my first choice,'' he said.