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Outsider faces tough initiation, he can bank on that

Stepping up to the job ... Dave Smith.

Stepping up to the job ... Dave Smith. Photo: Edwina Pickles

WHILE he hasn't played rugby league, Dave Smith proved he still has a strong fend, even though, as someone who is not a rugby league man, that might not be enough to stop criticism.

Smith is not only a man with a rugby union background, but also a banker, neither of which will endear him to some rugby league people.

That he learnt his sporting fend in rugby union, as well as his continual references to the sport - even if as a boy growing up in working class Wales - will irk some.

Smith will start as NRL boss on February 1.

Smith will start as NRL boss on February 1. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Should it? Probably not. He is a businessman and he has been hired to run a business. But rugby league can be an insular sport. Outsiders are frowned upon. Which means the new NRL chief executive, an outsider, will not be fawned upon.

That was clear from the outset today, when he was asked - first up - how he responded to the assertion that he was not a rugby league man. Largely, he responded well.

"I love rugby league," he said. "I'm a fan of rugby league. I'm a fan of rugby union. I'm a fan of multiple sports. I watch all sports. I really enjoyed the grand final, I thought the State of Origin series was probably some of the most competitive matches I've ever watched.

"For it to be reported that I'm not a fan is misleading."

So he passed one major test; he did not refer to the jewel in the crown of rugby league as State of the Origin. Yet being a rugby league fan is one thing; being a rugby league man is another to the masses. How many games did you go to this year? "I've spent six months on a plane this year, I manage businesses across ten countries, and I haven't had a lot of time to spend with my family, let alone to go to live games," he responded. "I haven't been to any live sport this year."

It seems remarkable that Smith - who grew up in working class Pontypridd, has been in the army, counter terrorism, and lately in the banking sector, while always with a passion for sport - can have such business acumen but might be eyed suspiciously when it comes to understanding the salary cap. But rugby league can do that.

"I'm in a big business at the moment, I have to manage multiple stakeholders," Smith said. "I've been doing that for many years. That's a challenge in terms of any business, and it's something that I'll have to take very seriously. I always try and earn credibility."

Today was, as Smith said, an "introduction". But in two ways. He introduced himself to rugby league, while rugby league introduced itself to him.

"This is the best job in Australia," Smith maintained. For now.

18 comments so far

  • Seriously? Is this code so insular that this article even needs to be written? The comment that he is running a business is bang on. What would they prefer? An ex player with zero experience in running a corporation??? Oh btw... remind us what Gallop's new job is again?

    Date and time
    November 23, 2012, 4:42PM
    • Yes Nik, but the whole article is a nonsense. The assertion that Rugby League is insular is made by the reporter. There is no back-up in the article for this assertion. Also who is this "they" you refer too? the "they" that the reporter made up for the article? Or the "they" someone else in that attended the press conference made up.
      Not a quote in the article from anyone but Glenn Jackson and Dave Smith.

      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 5:22PM
      • Uh rises for the players! They do not get enough.

        Date and time
        November 23, 2012, 5:27PM
        • Thank god, someone with actualy business experience - I half-expected them to appoint some boozy ex-forward as the new CEO. As great as the NRL is too watch, for too long now it been punching way below it's weight as a code - AFL's poor sibling. Playing in front of near-empty stadiums, ex-players with no business experience deciding on major business deals.
          Hopefully this new guy can get the business-side of the NRL to match the quality of the game itself, and players. A one-per-club marquee player allowance, exempt from the salary cap, would be a good start to keep the elite players in the game and attract elite players from other codes as well.

          Date and time
          November 23, 2012, 5:31PM
          • Well I am one less season ticket holder at the Sharks because of League outlawing the SC. My favourite part of the game has been stripped away. I won't be watching Origin either. The NRL hierarchy have so much to answer for. Last seasons refereeing almost drove me away but banning the SC was the clincher. Now all I have left is the A-League and I am not even sure if I want to watch that any more either. Thank goodness that the NFL and NBA are still entertaining. Maybe it is time for me to relocate...

            Given away League
            Date and time
            November 23, 2012, 7:03PM
          • Mate, if the shoulder charge is that big a deal to you exactly why do you like NBA or NFL?

            Surely you should be at Ultimate Fighting Championship events shouting out "hectic!" and "fully sick bro!" trying to get yourself splattered with body fluids of your "warriors"...

            Surry Hills
            Date and time
            November 23, 2012, 9:59PM
        • a banker? are you serious ? The only think on his resume that jumps out is the army stuff and i hope there was some capacity building in that work - hes got no background in event production or community development (or sports admin) and yes he has staff to carry those out but all im seeing is 'some' management experience in big business...again the reliance is on the one big pay cheque from the tv rights while all the other elements are ignored. Its the reliance on the tv deal that is the problem - each team needs to be niche marketed using community development with the aim to become self sufficient or at least bring in some income...if they cant, they need to leave the league, and one team towns replace them (the US model) - all looks a bit top heavy. it aint grass roots. might be setting the NRL on a path to dry up if its roots arent watered...

          inner west
          Date and time
          November 23, 2012, 5:38PM
          • Awesome, so now fans can look forward to what's best for the 'bottom line' rather than the game.

            Date and time
            November 23, 2012, 5:44PM
            • How much is he being paid?

              Date and time
              November 23, 2012, 5:52PM
              • This code had a really good CEO and gave him the flick.
                I`m not sure a banker running this type of show is the way to go - timw will tell i guess.
                It looks to me that this new NRL setup with chairman John Who at the helm is way out of their depth.

                Date and time
                November 23, 2012, 5:52PM

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