Rugby League

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Why Demetriou should be ARL's target

Now that the AFL's No.2 man, Gillon McLachlan, has knocked back the job as chief executive of the ARL Commission, rugby league should pursue the rival code's No.1 man, Andrew Demetriou, when he becomes available.

Rugby league needs a dictator and Demetriou has proven he can control AFL clubs, their players' association and extract superior deals from stadiums and broadcasters. McLachlan shared many of Demetriou's traits but not his ''take no prisoners'' approach.

Demetriou's delight in his deputy's decision to stay at the AFL reflects the reinforcing of the battle lines between the codes and the prospect of increased poaching of talent and sponsors, particularly now that rugby league has the same broadcasting resources as AFL.

While McLachlan was portrayed as a polo playing son of one of South Australia's most patrician families, the real question was: could he stand up to Nick Politis and Phil Gould? Both are entitled to their strong views.

Politis, as the longest serving club chairman, has probably poured about $30 million of his private wealth into the Roosters over his near 40 years in control at Bondi Junction.

ARL directors laud his business negotiating skills during his term on the NRL Partnership committee.


Gould has demonstrated his great love for the game by turning his back on the rich rewards and comparably relaxed life of the media to return to his first club, Penrith, and basically fix it.

Indications are he has met most of his objectives inside a year: resurrected their junior representative teams, rid the Panthers of some of their bloated contracts to create salary cap space and even rationalised the number of licensed clubs they control.

If he returns to a full-time job in the media, as expected, he will join his close friend, Politis, in maintaining a vigilant watch over the ARLC chief executive.

The ARLC's new chief executive must also deal with an empowered QRL who have half the commissioners either living in or supporting Queensland, setting up potential conflict with Sydney NRL clubs and the NSWRL.

There is evidence the net cast by the ARLC's executive search team, Spencer Stuart, has not been very wide. ARU boss John O'Neill did not receive a phone call.

This is not surprising, given he has signalled his retirement and John Mumm, the boss of Spencer Stuart, sits on the ARU board.

Nor has Ian Robson, chief executive of AFL club Essendon and formerly with Hawthorn, been approached.

Robson is one of the guesses as the mysterious ''third candidate'', with Racing NSW boss, Peter V'landys, named as the second choice behind McLachlan.

Nor has Brian Cook been head-hunted. Cook is the chief executive of Geelong, a man widely credited with eradicating the Cats' $7million debt, turning the club into a premiership force and winning grants for the redevelopment of their stadium.

Cook was the AFL Commission's preferred choice as executive commissioner when Demetriou, then the players' association boss, won the job. The AFL's then chairman, the late Ron Evans, lobbied hard for Demetriou and was supported by the ACTU's Bill Kelty who wanted a union man.

Demetriou's pay rose with his achievements to reach $2.2 million a year, something which caused the NRL's then chief executive, David Gallop much grief.

Gallop was receiving $750,000 when he left the ARLC and could not win another cent from chairman, John Grant.

Now, it appears, the ARLC was willing to pay McLachlan twice the money they paid Gallop.

Clearly, Gallop was not wanted but surely McLachlan must have been causing the ARLC some concern over his reservations about accepting the post before declining it yesterday.

It's likely the ARLC will now wait until a better candidate appears and work with their compliant acting chief executive, Shane Mattiske.

This will suit their reform agenda and need to be seen as relevant, even making rulings on the run.

They have referred shoulder charges direct to the judiciary, increasing the seriousness of the offence without considering the pressure it places on referees.

If a defensive player makes contact front-on with his shoulder but doesn't use his arms, is it a shoulder charge?

It certainly doesn't constitute a classic one in terms of intent but if the shoulder makes contact with the head, then it must be deemed dangerous.

Referees, along with policing double markers, the wrestle, the strip and the 10 metres, must now cope with attacking players screaming ''shoulder charge'' every time a player hits the ball carrier high with his shoulder, whether he uses his arms or not.

It's a question that will perplex most leaders in the AFL where a bump is illegal but not Demetriou who thrives on confrontational government.


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