Rugby League

South Sydney Rabbitohs CEO job: Super League general manager Blake Solly plays down link

Super League general manager Blake Solly says he's not been approached by anyone at South Sydney - but stopped just short of completely ruling out the possibility he will replace John Lee as the Bunnies' CEO.

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Solly, 38, is the first man linked to replace Lee who has jumped to sworn rivals Sydney Roosters, himself a replacement for the departing Brian Canavan.

The speculation is probably a bigger story in English rugby league, where Solly is seen as a progressive force leading the Salford Quays office of Super League and a counter to the more conservative Red Hall, Leeds, headquarters for the sport.

Position clear: Roosters CEO John Lee.
Position clear: Roosters CEO John Lee. Photo: Christopher Pearce

"I've not been approached by anyone at South Sydney," Solly told Fairfax Media.

Asked if he would rule out taking the job, he repeated: "I've not been approached by anyone at South Sydney"

Solly, meanwhile, has said Australasian clubs could be earning big money by taking pre-season games outside the heartlands instead of playing before sparse crowds at suburban grounds in February.

While North Queensland, Brisbane and Sydney Roosters are in Britain this week for the World Club Series, Remondis Stadium, Pepper Stadium and ANZ Stadium all hosted pre-season matches last weekend.

That's despite regular season games in Sydney almost never reaching sellout status and the teams at the WCS getting $300,000 each for their trouble from the host clubs.

"The commercial model in year one of the World Club Series worked for everyone – we'll see on Monday morning if it worked in year two for all the six clubs involved," said Solly.

"Early indications are it will. At Super League we're happy to take the financial risk on board because we can attract a sponsor like Dachia and our clubs usually make money on match day which is fantastic.

"And the Aussie clubs get to travel somewhere new to play."

NRL clubs are paid a $300,000 appearance fee. As part of their commitments, they must attend a community event, a corporate event and a "best practice summit" which the host clubs are able to monetize and keep all profits.

The clubs get to keep the gate receipts too. There seems no reason NRL clubs should play pre-season games for nothing when city, state and national governments are trying to attract events and the $300,000 precedent is now in place.

"I suppose each club is going to have its own pressures," said Solly. "Some will be driven very much by the coach and what the performance department wants to do.

"Then there will be other clubs like Brisbane, who qualified this year but accepted the invitation last year, They see this as an opportunity to grow.

"I wouldn't want to mandate anything on anyone but we're really hungry for this tournament to grow."

There was a plan to expand the WCS to eight teams this year. "We'd love to host it every year but we accept some of our clubs would like to go down and play in Australia," said Solly.

"It's a matter of whether the appetite is there to host it."

Twelve teams indicated their interest in taking part in the World Club Series this year – meaning there are four who may remain reluctant to attend in 2017, even if they win the competition.

"I am probably a relentlessly optimistic person," Solly said. "Having taken 10 years to get three clubs to sign up, to get 12 in six weeks, by 2017 we want all 16 teams wanting to come here."

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