Rugby league great Graham Lowe says the coronavirus pandemic has unmasked a greed that has infiltrated the NRL and believes a fundamental re-set should take place.
While adamant that sport “is insignificant behind humanity” in the problems caused by COVID-19, Lowe didn’t hold back when asked to assess if a reincarnated NRL could be better structured.
The successful former Manly, Queensland and Kiwis coach said too many stakeholders had clawed themselves an influential voice in the running of the game.
Clubs and the NRL itself were now top-heavy with staff, Lowe said, and the imbalance was exposed by the pandemic, which has halted the competition and left it teetering financially.
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“We can all see it now, there’s been a greed that’s infected the game, a greed from players, from coaches, from player agents and clubs,” Lowe told AAP.
“I think it’s been disgusting and whatever happens in the future, someone’s got to be strong enough to make sure that greed never infects the game again.
“For example, coaches have got to be totally de-powered. They’re not the oracles they think they are on the game.”
Lowe, who was chief executive at Manly a decade ago, said he had to go back to more than 20 years ago when Ken Arthurson ran a tight rugby league ship in Australia for the ideal setup.
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Arthurson’s hard-nosed attitude wouldn’t have let struggling clubs be continually bailed out by grants and other support mechanisms, Lowe added, and that a central cash reserve would probably have been established.
He said only clubs that can survive through their own crowd figures and sponsorship should remain in a new-look competition, hailing Brisbane Broncos as the only club currently that could be classified as strong.
Lowe said the salary cap should be dispensed with and an English Premier League-style structure introduced, even if that results in a smaller number of teams.
“I know that broadcasting has a major part to play but weak clubs shouldn’t be allowed to be involved,” he said.
“You’ve got to have a situation where the clubs can actually stand on their own two feet, without the support of the governing body.
“Most clubs would agree, they could run on a fraction of their staff for a start. You’ve got assistant coaches for the assistants.”
Lowe feared he would sound like a curmudgeon but he believed the influx of business people running rugby league had removed some of its essence for fans.
“The game was embarrassed about itself because they felt there were too many blokes with broken noses and cauliflower ears in positions of control.
“We’ve totally failed to recognise the wisdom of those blokes.”