INCOMING chief executive Dave Smith is walking into a viper's nest at the NRL with warring factions and dissatisfaction rife at headquarters. At the centre of much of the angst is the attitude of salary cap auditor Ian Schubert. Schubert and interim boss Shane Mattiske are a long way from being tight. There are suggestions they speak only when they must, with Schubert considering Mattiske too bookish. There is widespread contempt for Schubert from the clubs and there is growing talk of a coup being staged against him. What annoyed so many was Schubert's decision to set Israel Folau's salary at $400,000 after he was willing to play for far less. He then re-adjusted the figure to $250,000 - by that time Folau was learning all about rucks and mauls. What should have been a massive coup for the game turned out to be a significant black eye. Schubert has escaped the wrath of Paramatta publicly - possibly because of the power he casts. They don't want to get him offside. That's why a vote of no-confidence or a coup is being whispered about - a one-in, all-in situation may be the way to go. When I fronted ARLC chairman John Grant about that possibility he dismissed the idea. Grant said Schubert should be left alone to do his job and that, like referees, he would be disliked for the job he did.
Grant goes distance
THE upmarket Le Sands restaurant played host to the ARLC Chairman's Christmas lunch. It would have been a pricey old affair but it wasn't chairman Grant who picked up the tab; it was acting CEO Mattiske. He was one of the last attendees to arrive and one of the first to leave the event. The stayers were Grant, David Trodden and Geoff Carr.
Travelling in style
BEST sight of the week was Grant's arrival at the NRL on Wednesday - a chauffeur driving a BMW four-wheel-drive jumped the footpath and drove at a decent speed towards the front doors of NRL Central. It didn't exactly come to a screeching halt but that wasn't far from the truth. "Wish I could have driven straight through the doors," he said, laughing.
Trodden calls it quits
WESTS Tigers have lost a seriously good operator with chairman David Trodden pulling the pin. Trodden is smart and switched on with a passion for league - he wouldn't have been out of place high up at the NRL. The infighting being driven by the Magpies faction at the club played a role in his decision to leave his post early. New coach Mick Potter and his players will be under extreme presume next year. Trodden's cool head will be missed.
NRL players were being privately urged by leading figures in the game to forget about boycotting the All Stars match and target State of Origin instead. It's this column's understanding that even Wayne Bennett was of that view - the theory was that the players should target the showpiece event if they wanted to make an impact. The All Stars game was being considered simply because it was the next time the players had to be somewhere. The policy the players adopted regarding the threat of a strike was that they were not to publicly speak about it happening. Behind the scenes soundings were made with the likes of Johnathan Thurston and Sam Thaiday - players who could have been offended with the threat to boycott a game of real significance to the indigenous community. The players were given the all-clear to make it known they had a "whatever it takes" attitude.
Sharks lose Energy
THIS column was taken to task by Sharks supporters and chairman Damian Irvine when I wrote on September 16 that the sponsorship deal with Shark Energy Drinks was in jeopardy and they might not be the jersey sponsor next year. The comments on Twitter were typically irrational and, as it turns out, incorrect. When the Sharks sent out a message to their fans with a photo of players sporting apparel with CSFC on the front we approached Irvine about the deal again - he assured us Shark Energy would be the jersey sponsor in 2013, and the only reason the sponsor's name was not on display was because the club was searching for sponsors for its training shirts. Turns out the deal is now history and with the season looming one really strong contender for the NRL title has no major sponsor.
Izzy going to the Dogs?
WORD out of Israel Folau's management camp is they are predicting a long stay in rugby - but NRL sides are wary about Folau being a Bulldog in 2014. Titan Management has a very strong presence at the Dogs - Folau is mates with Krisnan Inu and others at the club. Folau's agent, Isaac Moses, is very tight with Dogs boss Todd Greenberg. It's worth keeping an eye on.
SPARTAN sporting apparel is about to sign Viv Richards as a brand ambassador - it certainly has money to spend. The word is Michael Clarke's bat sponsorship is worth $1 million a year. Spartan also have Benji Marshall and Daniel Geale on its books.
Bird plays it cool
WITH Eels targets falling by the wayside, Greg Bird is moving into a better decision-making position by the day. Israel Folau and James Tamou have elected to go in different directions but all along Bird has been the player that Ricky Stuart has craved. He has the attitude and the muscle to stiffen an Eels pack that in previous seasons has lacked those qualities. Bird says just because Stuart is the Eels coach, doesn't mean he will join the club. "But it's no secret that I respect Ricky," Bird said. "He's a coach I enjoy playing for, but I am very happy playing here at the Titans under Carty [John Cartwright]. I'll look at my options next year for sure." Asked about the Eels missing out on Folau, he said: "I wouldn't mind some of the dollars he was promised."
Ted's a tiny Chook
THIS is Edmund "Ted" Gyngell. With dad David and mum Leila massive Sydney Roosters fans, there was never a doubt which team he would be supporting.
WILLIE MASON has cast doubts on the ability of Sonny Bill Williams to maintain a double life as a boxer and footballer in years to come. And Mason may be on to something - as SBW prepares for his February 8 fight in Brisbane there is increasing mail that boxing not football will be the sport he chooses down the track. "I don't know how Sonny Bill can do it," he said. "I think it's lucky that he is still young … for a bloke over 30 mixing the two sports it would be too hard - even for an extreme athlete like Sonny Bill. I don't know if I've been fitter doing the two sports and I can imagine how it will benefit my game. It does teach you a lot about yourself - the mental strength to get in the ring is a huge thing."
Purtell's hearty return
BRADFORD centre Adrian Purtell's return to league after suffering a heart attack is inspirational. "It's been a weird time for me … I just know that it's more than a second chance at footy, it's a second bite at life," the former Canberra and Penrith player said. "It was a very worrying time for me. There was no good reason it happened. No family history. I suffered from DVT [deep vein thrombosis] a couple of years before but the doctors said that was not related to what happened to me. Now that it has, I'm going to make the most of a new contract and a new start. I really have to thank my financial advisor Trent Tavoletti because he told me I should take out trauma insurance when I signed up - and while I didn't think too much about it at the time it has saved me." Forking out $1500 netted Purtell $200,000 in insurance. "It meant that I could almost pay off my house in Albury," he said. "Mum is living there at the moment and if anything good has come out of a bad time it was that."
Wayne's dull world
NINE News was given the inside word that Manchester United was going to be playing the A-League All Stars and were set up with an interview with Wayne Rooney. London-based correspondent Peter Stefanovic went to United HQ for an 11.30am interview with Rooney. After two hours waiting, Stefanovic was asked to return the next day. World events took over the next day - the suicide of the nurse after the prank call by Sydney DJs meant that the interview had to be done by Manchester United TV. And after listening to seven minutes of his chatter, it's lucky he is such a great player. INTERVIEWER: What do you know about Australia? ROONEY: Em, not much. The rivalry between Australia and England in cricket is massive and the same in rugby. INTERVIEWER: Are you a Neighbours fan or Home and Away? ROONEY: Never watched them programs, so I'll pass on that one. INTERVIEWER: Growing up in Liverpool, Australia must have seemed a long way away … you wouldn't have imagined that you'd be going there? ROONEY: No it's not something I've thought of. INTERVIEWER: What do you know about Australian football? ROONEY: Again not much
… And on and on it went. Insightful stuff.