It’s such a V’landys thing to say, the dag that he is, although it’s wide of the mark. Barring some sort of scandal, his descent is a long way off — if at all. He agreed in November last year to see out another three-year term, which will be ratified at next month’s annual general meeting.
He has many acolytes in the media, meaning even when he does make a mistake, he won’t be condemned for it.
For instance, when the commission decided last year to banish the national anthem before State of Origin, some commentators skewered chief executive Andrew Abdo because they didn’t want to skewer the chairman.
When no less than Prime Minister Scott Morrison intervened and the commission backflipped, V’landys was lavished with praise for his “agility” in changing the policy.
Todd Greenberg was supposedly made of Teflon but this guy is bulletproof.
Then again, Greenberg didn’t or couldn’t harass state and federal governments into allowing rugby league to restart on May 28 last year, beating every other major code in the world to the punch.
V’landys also elicits varying opinions from readers. Criticise him and you will be branded “elitist” or accused of “running a Channel Nine agenda”. Applaud him and some will bombard you with suspicious emails: “For the life of me I don’t know what V’landys has over you!”
Me neither. It scares me to think.
V’landys crashed his way through 2020, partly because that is his manner, but also because it was required. Life should be easier this season but there was a raft of issues in his diary when he got his feet under the desk at Racing NSW, which he seemingly runs in his lunch break.
The first is finalising the collective bargaining agreement with the RLPA. He dismisses talk players will have to take a seven per cent pay cut, saying it’s less.
“The deal is a good one for the players,” he declares. “I’m all for the players. One thing I was adamant about, because I pride myself on fighting for the battler, is that the AFL cut three players from each roster. Their reduction is 9.5 per cent, if you want to compare apples to apples. We didn’t cut anyone. We still have the 30 contracted players and four development players. What the RLPA wanted to do was cut it by three. We weren’t party to that. I’ve protected those three players at each club. Otherwise, you would’ve had 16 clubs times three players (48) who would’ve lost their jobs.”
And what of the AFL? Two days before Christmas, the rival code spruiked a new broadcast deal with Foxtel and Telstra, which, along with revenue from Seven, would “deliver $946m to the AFL industry” over the next two years.
The NRL renegotiated and extended its deal with Foxtel out to 2027 for an undisclosed amount having also renegotiated its contract with Nine (which publishes this masthead) for a further two years. The AFL claims it’s struck a far better deal.
“It’s complete crap, the whole thing,” V’landys bristles. “Our deal with Foxtel is for seven years. The AFL only did it for two years. It’s complicated in the sense that they were getting a lot of money from Telstra, and now they don’t. It’s a completely different negotiation. I can’t say the figure [of the NRL’s deal with Foxtel] because I’m bound by confidentiality, but we’re getting more now than we were before.”
Why can’t he divulge the figure if it’s so good? The NRL has in the past.
“It’s a good deal,” he insists. “For every week that we weren’t playing last year, it was costing us $13 million. Without Fox, there is no rugby league.”
The alternative view is that without rugby league there is no Fox, but that’s another story for another time.
Other items on the PVL agenda include the inclusion of a second Brisbane team, player behaviour and whether players will be returning to The Bubble. He shot down reports at the weekend that the idea of a second Brisbane team in 2023 was over.
“Incorrect,” he says. “We have started analysis on a possible 17th team in Brisbane. There’s plenty of time to consider it, but the business case has to stack up.”
In terms of player behaviour, especially in the wake of Broncos big man Payne Haas being arrested and charged for verbally abusing police, he says this: “I believe in due process and natural justice. I think the players are hard done by. Since my involvement in the game, most players have been great to deal with.”
Will they be returning to The Bubble? Much depends on the federal government’s vaccination roll-out but he remains hopeful that the Warriors, who have relocated to NSW, will return to New Zealand.
“It might not be April,” he says, “but at some stage they will be playing in Auckland.”
It sounds like a pipedream, but dismiss the moonwalking V’landys at your own peril.
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Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.
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