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Game-changing deal that was brokered in a phone box

Date

Shane Mattiske made some big early calls while warming rugby league's hot seat.

"I'm really pleased with what we've acheived" ... Shane Mattiske.

"I'm really pleased with what we've acheived" ... Shane Mattiske. Photo: Tamara Voninski

A PHONE box outside a campsite near Nowra. If ever there was a place you would not have expected some serious negotiations to be had, on the next NRL major sponsor and digital media rights, this would be it. But, having lost mobile phone reception 20 minutes earlier, that was what Shane Mattiske, the NRL's interim chief executive, was left with; a telephone box, near a general store which was by this time closed, and a very loud cockatoo, who clearly did not appreciate the magnitude of the phone call.

Mattiske was about due for a break, being a few days after this year's NRL grand final. He had already sent his family to the campsite in Coolendel - a town about 40 minutes from Nowra - and left it as late as he could to leave his office.

On that Wednesday afternoon, three days after his first grand final as NRL boss, he spent the entire trip on his phone on the way down, and - even after his reception had died - knew he needed to find another, for a conference call with Commissioners John Grant and Ian Elliot, and two senior Telstra executives. ''I had an hour-long teleconference, with two of the most senior executives at Telstra, and two of our commissioners, to try and settle an in-principle agreement for the five-year, hundred-million plus deal,'' he says.

''Fortunately there weren't other people lining up to use the phone. It was a very serious conversation, obviously, with this sulphur-crested cockatoo in a cage in the background, squawking the whole time.''

He then found his family, in the dark, guided by a light on his smart phone. Many might have expected Mattiske to attack his role as interim chief executive in the same circumstances, in the dark and with a small light to guide him. But they would be proved wrong. What was completed from the day he was told by Grant and Elliot that he was the interim boss, replacing David Gallop, had been significant. The work has continued up until today, when Mattiske will again leave his office for a holiday.

It was a ''banner year'', says Mattiske, who recalls meeting with clubs in the Members Bar area of the SCG in 2008, as part of a strategy session, preparing for 2012. ''It's an extraordinary year in terms of the number of deals which we've had to work through,'' he says.

The five-year $1.025 billion broadcast deal with Channel Nine and Fox Sports was the largest and most important, but throw in the naming rights and digital media, the rebranding of the code, the recently completed collective bargaining agreements, and the almost completed radio rights and New Zealand broadcast rights, and it is clear this was no interim season.

''All of us have worked for four years, across the board, to be in a position where we can realise the true potential of the game,'' Mattiske says. ''Sitting here now, in December, you look back on that year, and the really exciting thing is those plans have worked. The 2012 season would have to be one of the most momentous seasons in the game's history in Australia.''

Planning is what Mattiske does well. Before he was an interim CEO, he was director of strategy and special projects. One of those special projects was to move the entire administration, as well as many of the other RLs, into the one building in Moore Park. That building, Rugby League Central, was opened on the same day the ARL Commission was formed.

Mattiske is in the same office now as the one he moved into that day. Even when he was made the interim boss in June, he said his ''focus'' was not on assuming the role on a permanent basis. He was also often quick to point out the work done by Gallop to put the administration into a strong footing, acknowledging the ''challenge'' of Gallop's departure. The two had worked together on the broadcast deal previously, which allowed Mattiske to take on the responsibility of those negotiations more seamlessly. He said the result was ''a benchmark deal in Australian sport''. The final days and hours of the deal were worth the exhaustion.

Mattiske said the final 15 per cent of negotiations occurred in the Sportsground meeting room during a marathon Monday night meeting, on the second floor of Rugby League Central. On that night in August, security wheeled a coffee machine up to the room, and the group ordered pizzas, as the bosses of the Nine Network (Jeff Browne) and Fox Sports (Patrick Delany), broke away to make phone calls.

''We'd worked a huge number of hours in the lead-up, to the point where we reached agreement that we were going to do a deal, and we needed to work through the night to be able to lock in the details, so it would be settled,'' Mattiske says.

To the point where the final 120-page heads of agreement document still features notations and addenda in pen. ''It's unlike any contract I've seen,'' he says.

It was unlike any night he'd experienced. ''It's difficult to comprehend how you can build a billion-dollar deal in the space of 16 hours,'' he says. ''But it was done.'' The deal was signed little more than an hour before the official announcement; it would be Mattiske's first press conference since taking the role, which he found the most challenging part of the process. ''Exhilarating, terrifying,'' Mattiske said of that press conference.

But the work has been relentless since, to the point where, Mattiske says, he and the network bosses are yet to meet to celebrate the deal. That will happen next month.

''I'm really pleased with what we've achieved,'' he says. ''It's extraordinary. We're entering into a new era in rugby league, and I think anyone in the game should be excited about that.''

NRL Season 2015

Round 1
Thu, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 6 vs SOU 36 Report Stats
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 42 vs MAN 12 Report Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 24 vs NZW 14 Report Stats
GCT 18 vs WST 19 Report Stats
NQL 4 vs SYD 28 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 24 vs CBY 18 Report Stats
CRO 20 vs CBR 24 Report Stats
Mon, 09 MarTimes shown AEDT
STG 4 vs MEL 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBY 32 vs PAR 12 Report Stats
CRO 2 vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 40 vs GCT Report Stats
MAN 24 vs MEL 22 Stats
NQL 14 vs NEW 16 Report Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 34 vs SYD 26 Stats
CBR 6 vs NZW 18 Report Stats
Mon, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST 22 vs STG 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN 12 vs CBY 16 Report Stats
BRI 44 vs NQL 22 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 29 vs PAR 16 Report Stats
CBR 20 vs STG 22 Report Stats
MEL 36 vs CRO 18 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 20 vs WST 6 Report Stats
GCT 18 vs NEW 20 Report Stats
Mon, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 20 vs PEN 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 29 vs SOU 16 Report Stats
WST 24 vs CBY 25 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 26 vs PEN 14 Report Stats
CRO 22 vs GCT 24 Report Stats
STG 12 vs MAN 4 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 16 vs BRI 24 Report Stats
SYD 34 vs CBR 6 Report Stats
Mon, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
NQL 18 vs MEL 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
CBY 17 vs SOU 18 Report Stats
GCT 16 vs BRI 26 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MAN 16 vs CBR 29 Report Stats
NEW vs STG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD 12 vs CRO 20 Report Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 6 vs WST 22 Report Stats
MEL 30 vs NZW 14 Report Stats
PEN 10 vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 22 vs SYD 18 Report Stats
CRO 22 vs NEW 6 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 16 vs GCT 38 Report Stats
NZW 32 vs WST 22 Report Stats
PEN 22 vs MAN 12 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CBR 10 vs MEL 14 Report Stats
STG 31 vs CBY 6 Report Stats
Mon, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU 12 vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 28 vs MAN 16 Report Stats
STG 12 vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
GCT 32 vs PEN 6 Report Stats
NQL 28 vs NZW 24 Report Stats
MEL 17 vs SYD 16 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
WST 22 vs CBR 30 Report Stats
NEW 22 vs PAR 28 Report Stats
Mon, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
CRO 18 vs SOU 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 14 vs WST 38 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
NZW 28 vs GCT 32 Report Stats
NEW 24 vs NQL 26 Report Stats
SYD 12 vs STG 14 Report Stats
MEL 10 vs MAN 12 Stats
BRI 28 vs PAR 16 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
PEN 26 vs CRO 18 Stats
SOU 22 vs CBR 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 8 vs PEN 5 Report Stats
SYD 36 vs WST 4 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR 56 vs GCT 16 Stats
CRO 16 vs NZW 20 Stats
NQL 23 vs CBY 16 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 30 vs NEW 10 Stats
PAR 10 vs MEL 28 Stats
Mon, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 16 vs STG 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CBY 10 vs SYD 24 Stats
NQL 31 vs BRI 20 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR 13 vs NZW 17 Report Stats
GCT 22 vs CRO 23 Report Stats
MEL 16 vs SOU 12 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
STG 32 vs CBR 18 Report Stats
NEW 22 vs WST 12 Stats
Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 10 vs PEN 11 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 14 vs PAR 12 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
WST vs NQL 8 Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR vs CBY 16:00GIO Stadium
Mon, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
NEW vs BRI 19:00HS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
PEN vs PAR 19:45Pepper Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
GCT vs SOU 15:00Cbus Super Stadium
CBR vs BRI 17:30GIO Stadium
NQL vs MAN 19:301300 Smiles Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
NZW vs NEW 14:00MSS
STG vs CRO 16:00Jubilee Oval
Mon, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 19:00AS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs MAN 19:35SUN
WST vs GCT 19:35VAS
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW vs CBR 15:00HS
SOU vs NZW 17:30nib Stadium
PEN vs MEL 19:30Pepper Stadium
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CRO vs SYD 16:00Remondis Stadium
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY vs STG 16:00ANZ
PAR vs NQL 19:00Pirtek Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
WST vs SOU 19:45ANZ
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW vs SYD 18:00MSS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT vs CBY 16:00Cbus Super Stadium
Mon, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs PAR 19:00AAMI
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
MAN vs WST 19:45BO
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NQL 15:00GIO Stadium
GCT vs NZW 17:30Cbus Super Stadium
CBY vs PEN 19:30ANZ
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW vs CRO 14:00HS
MEL vs BRI 16:00AAMI
Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
STG vs SYD 19:00AS
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs NEW 19:35SUN
SOU vs MAN 19:35ANZ
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW vs CBR 15:00MSS
NQL vs CRO 17:301300 Smiles Stadium
PAR vs STG 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs GCT 14:00AS
WST vs PEN 16:00VAS
Mon, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY vs MEL 19:00Belmore Sports Ground
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs SOU 19:45Pepper Stadium
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
STG vs NQL 19:30WIN
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN vs CRO 16:00BO
Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
WST vs PAR 19:00ANZ
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NEW 19:45GIO Stadium
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs SYD 17:30Pepper Stadium
CBY vs BRI 19:30ANZ
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs MEL 14:00MSS
CRO vs STG 16:00Remondis Stadium
Mon, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
GCT vs MAN 19:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
PAR vs CBY 19:35ANZ
MEL vs PEN 19:35AAMI
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs CRO 15:00GIO Stadium
NEW vs GCT 17:30HS
STG vs SOU 19:30SCG
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NZW 14:00AS
BRI vs WST 16:00SUN
Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN vs NQL 19:00BO
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI vs GCT 19:35SUN
WST vs SYD 19:35ANZ
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs MAN 15:00MSS
SOU vs NEW 17:30ANZ
MEL vs STG 19:30AAMI
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs CBR 14:00Pepper Stadium
CBY vs CRO 16:00Belmore Sports Ground
Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL vs PAR 19:001300 Smiles Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Thu, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs CRO 22:00MSS
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL vs CBR 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
STG vs NEW 00:00Jubilee Oval
SOU vs PEN 00:00ANZ
SYD vs CBY 00:00AS
MAN vs BRI 00:00TBA
WST vs MEL 00:00VAS
GCT vs PAR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Thu, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs STG 22:00MSS
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CBY 00:00SUN
NEW vs SYD 00:00HS
CBR vs WST 00:00GIO Stadium
MAN vs SOU 00:00BO
CRO vs NQL 00:00Remondis Stadium
MEL vs GCT 00:00AAMI
PAR vs PEN 00:30TIO
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STG 00:00SUN
CBY vs GCT 00:00TBA
NQL vs SOU 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
PEN vs NZW 00:00Pepper Stadium
CBR vs MAN 00:00GIO Stadium
SYD vs PAR 00:00AS
CRO vs MEL 00:00Remondis Stadium
WST vs NEW 00:00CSS
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Wed, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs NQL 22:00MSS
Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
STG vs PEN 00:00WIN
SOU vs CBY 00:00ANZ
SYD vs BRI 00:00AS
MAN vs PAR 00:00BO
CRO vs WST 00:00Remondis Stadium
MEL vs NEW 00:00AAMI
GCT vs CBR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
PAR vs CRO 00:00Pirtek Stadium
NEW vs CBY 00:00HS
SOU vs BRI 00:00AS
CBR vs PEN 00:00GIO Stadium
MAN vs SYD 00:00BO
MEL vs NQL 00:00AAMI
WST vs NZW 00:00CSS
GCT vs STG 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI vs MEL 00:00SUN
CBY vs NZW 00:00ANZ
NQL vs GCT 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
STG vs WST 00:00ANZ
PAR vs CBR 00:00Pirtek Stadium
PEN vs NEW 00:00Pepper Stadium
SYD vs SOU 00:00AS
CRO vs MAN 00:00Remondis Stadium
View All Fixtures
NRL Ladder 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D Pts
Melbourne Storm 10 7 3 0 16
St George-Illawarra Dragons 10 7 3 0 16
North Queensland Cowboys 11 8 3 0 16
Brisbane Broncos 10 7 3 0 14
Sydney Roosters 10 5 5 0 12
South Sydney Rabbitohs 11 6 5 0 12
Warriors 10 5 5 0 12
Penrith Panthers 10 5 5 0 12
View all
 
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