Green the right woman to sell rhythm and bruise of league to Victoria
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Green the right woman to sell rhythm and bruise of league to Victoria

University degrees and corporate experience have long since replaced missing teeth as the main qualification for chairing football’s top boards.

The ARLC is led by Peter Beattie, a lawyer and a four-term Queensland Premier; Dr George Peponis, the NSWRL chair, is a medical practitioner; while his Queensland equivalent, Bruce Hatcher, is a chartered accountant and company director.

Ticking all the boxes: Rugby League Victoria chairwoman Dr Amanda Green is a change agent.

Ticking all the boxes: Rugby League Victoria chairwoman Dr Amanda Green is a change agent.

Photo: NRL Photos

Dr Peponis captained Australia as a hooker. Since then, scrums have become about as competitive as a Vladimir Putin election, and retired hookers are expected to have a set of pearly whites in order to host TV shows.

Victoria now has a PhD to lead the code in the southern state – Dr Amanda Green, who obtained a doctorate in psychology from the University of Melbourne, specialising in performance and organisation.

Dr Green is small of stature but can dead-lift 100 kilograms, symbolising the challenge she faces in a state dominated by AFL.

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“There is something very unique about Melbourne’s insatiable appetite for sport that drives the city,” she says.

“So the opportunity to provide my expertise and support to league in a non-Origin state is also very attractive for me. Melbourne is AFL heartland so I am sure my experience in rugby league will be more like the non-Victorian based clubs with AFL.

Image problem: Many of the Melbourne city elite have never seen the Storm play.

Image problem: Many of the Melbourne city elite have never seen the Storm play.

Photo: AAP

"I look forward to supporting the growth in female participation at the elite level and building a strong platform for the game here in Victoria.”

The prospect of the Storm providing a fifth team in the fledgling national womens’ competition was an incentive when she submitted an application to the ARLC to take the position as Victorian chair, after speaking to the NRL’s Brian Canavan at the Women In League round.

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She also admits to being attracted by the rugby league Centre of Excellence in the northern suburbs of the city, a $10 million commitment by the Victorian Government.

The four years she spent as general manager of people and performance at Richmond, ending with the Tigers’ premiership in 2017, obviously influenced the ARLC in appointing her. She is now a director with global accounting firm PwC.

Dr Green is fluent in corporate speak. Her language is embedded with terms like “gender diversity, gender equality, social cohesion, change agent, inclusion”.

A board member of Triathlon Australia, she says: “Sport offers, unlike other sectors, the opportunity to influence our community in terms of social norms and expectations, e.g. child protection, physical and mental health, gender equity and domestic violence, integration and connection of our multicultural community.”

That is precisely the approach needed for rugby league to grow in Victoria.

The local branch of Men of League, a charity organisation set up to assist retired footballers, spends none of its resources or time on past players because few have been playing long enough to retire.

Instead, assistance is given to league-playing families struck down by parental death, cancer, suicide or road accidents, principally in the poorer working-class suburbs.

Dr Green also has a canny commercial side, a necessity in a state that relies for resources on the ARLC and the privately owned Storm.

At Richmond, apart from her role setting up the club’s human resources function, she was asked to diversify its business model in order to create alternative revenue streams.

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“So we created the Tigers’ wholly owned subsidiary, Aligned Leisure, which provides four facilities across Victoria in partnership with local government to manage health and leisure facilities, running basketball courts, community gyms, swimming pools and the like.

“Richmond brought me in for transformational change and at the end of four years, my job was done.

“I’m a change leader and I’m passionate about equality and diversity and I can see the NRL taking a lead on this.”

Yes, but what about the 13-a-side game on the field? Melburnians still call it rugby. Many of the city elite who attended rugby union-playing private schools describe rugby league as an oafish game, while they claim the 15-a-side one is more skilful, yet have never seen the Storm play.

Dr Green says: “Rugby League offers both a hardness/strength combined with a dynamic athleticism. I believe that it offers a strong proposition for the spectator that wants to be entertained and watch the performance of elite athletes but also expects to be engaged in a high-paced/dynamic spectacle when they choose to spend their recreational time at an NRL game.

"People are exhausted for choice to spend their discretionary dollars/time, so we need to offer a product that is compelling.”

Those words capture the rhythm and bruise of rugby league and the need to sell it to the Victorian community.

It would seem the ARLC have chosen someone, who, in original corporate speak, “ticks all the boxes”.