Rugby League

Parramatta Eels and South Sydney Rabbitohs sound out Shane Richardson as Todd Greenberg firms as NRL chief executive

Andrew Webster

Parramatta have targeted NRL powerbroker Shane Richardson to come on board as chief executive – but they could have competition from his former club, South Sydney.

Meanwhile, a dedicated push is on from inside and outside League Central for head of football Todd Greenberg to take on the chief executive's role Dave Smith dramatically vacated at the end of last year.

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Off-season? What off-season?

Richardson was appointed by Smith early last year as the head of game strategy and development.

In demand: Shane Richardson.
In demand: Shane Richardson. 

His whole-of-game blueprint was released just before Christmas, but there has been a mixed reaction from NRL clubs and other stakeholders.

As this column understands it, no decision from Richardson on his future has been made. He is on holidays overseas and could not be contacted.

It's well known, though, that he relished the move away after three decades from the calamity of Club Land while working on the bigger picture.

As the Eels have shown in recent seasons – and especially during the Kieran Foran contract saga – they are the most catastrophe-prone club in the NRL.

In the running for the top job: Todd Greenberg.
In the running for the top job: Todd Greenberg. Photo: Getty Images

The well-regarded John Boulous was appointed interim Eels boss after Scott Seward resigned after the Foran deal nearly collapsed.

Some at the Eels believe Boulous will get the job. Others are expecting Richardson to be appointed in days.

Chairman Steve Sharp said he would return a call on Monday afternoon, but did not.

Those close to Richardson would be surprised if he returned to any club other than Souths.

And if his former club ever needed a steady, experienced hand, it is right now.

There has been speculation for months that Souths' co-owner Russell Crowe has doubts about Richardson's replacement, John Lee.

No club has stirred more talk among rival clubs, players and coaches during the summer than Souths.

They will deny it publicly but some players tell you privately they are not happy about the way Dylan Walker and Chris McQueen were squeezed out so Sam Burgess could return to rugby league after his rugby career in England derailed.

Some of the rumours appear wide of the mark.

It was hinted that fullback Greg Inglis wasn't pleased that Burgess was coming back to Redfern – yet he was front and centre in a tuxedo at Big Sammy's wedding last week, standing alongside the groom and teammates.

Inglis' early departure to the Broncos, however, is certainly on the agenda.

The Broncos might have finally signed James Roberts, but there had been moves to let him go to Souths provided Inglis headed north for this season.

It is generally accepted the Kangaroos and Queensland star will now join Wayne Bennett at the Broncos in 2017, despite having a year to run on his current Souths deal.

There is certainly a belief that Souths need to tear the side down and start again.

If the side struggles early in the season there will be increasing pressure to move Michael Maguire along and find a replacement.

He was linked to the once-vacant Knights job, but that was bogus interest to anger Souths management because he was not getting everything he wanted in terms of high performance.

Souths remain a powerhouse, co-owned by Crowe and James Packer, chaired by Nick Pappas, with a vast membership. Alongside the Broncos, they set the standard.

But, a year after winning the comp, it is time to rebuild. Richardson would be ideal to navigate them through uncertain times. He also had the courage to stand up to Crowe and Maguire when necessary.

Yet another job might be available to him, and that is Greenberg's position as head of football should ARL chairman John Grant listen to the pleas from clubs and staffers to give Greenberg the top job.

Those NRL clubs … They're a funny bunch.

They were hunting down Greenberg after the alleged Ben Barba cover-up in his early days at the NRL. They've also slammed some of his decisions as head of footy.

And now?

Now, they've gone all Kylie Minogue, believing it's better the devil you know instead of bringing in another outsider like merchant banker Smith, who never understood the relentless cut and thrust of the game, so much so it wore him down, chewed him up, spat him out.

Inside the walls of League Central, weary executive members and staffers couldn't get to the Christmas party quick enough.

Those spoken to want Greenberg in the big chair, although they are wary of the fact that Grant will not only take his time but will also want to trumpet a big-name signing.

Those within the NRL also realise Greenberg is in the wrong role.

Greenberg might understand the business of rugby league, but he doesn't understand the game of rugby league, as the mess that is 80 minutes of footy in recent seasons highlights.

The chief executive needs to be a politician. Love him or loathe him, Greenberg fits the bill, although he's more Rudd than Turnbull.

Smith would never front the media when the excrement hit the fan. Greenberg knows how to tackle an issue publicly straight away.

His potential appointment would open the door for Richardson to replace him as head of football, the job he probably should have been given all along.

Off-season? What off-season?

Dave Smith is having an extended one. The last we heard, he was living large, travelling around the world, without a care in the world.

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