MORE OF THIS!!!The Dragons should be one of the most powerful brands in Australian sport, but instead they’re a mess. It’s time for the NRL to step in and save St George Illawarra, writes David Riccio.
The NRL have stepped in to help the dysfunctional Wests Tigers.
In 2014, former NRL CEO Dave Smith ordered an overhaul of the Wests Tigers drama-riddled club by starting with ripping up the board and adding independent directors.
In the same year, the NRL emerged as the white knight to save Newcastle from going under.
The NRL took over the beleaguered club following the financial losses of its former private owner Nathan Tinkler.
The following year, in 2015, the NRL terminated the Gold Coast Titans licence.
The NRL kept the Titans going until 2017 when successful businesswoman Rebecca Frizelle and Daryl Kelly came along to purchase the Titans.
The time has come for the NRL to step in and fix what should be one of the most powerful brands in Australian sport.
The Red V, the Dragons, the mighty St George-Illawarra are a mess. It’s that bad.
And the game is poorer for it.
ARL chairman Peter V’landys and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo should be driving down Mt Ousley on Monday.
They should be banging on the office doors of CEO Ryan Webb and club chairman Andrew Lancaster.
Serious questions on where the football club has been heading for several years and more importantly, how the Dragons figureheads plan to fix it, needs to be addressed.
Over the course of the past few weeks, both V’landys and Abdo have all but secured a five-year $200m deal with enough global stakeholders to launch the NRL season to a huge US market.
It will be a first for the game.
The Dragons have had since February – when they originally told ex-coach Anthony Griffin that his days were numbered – to appoint a new head coach.
Due to ego and control at board level, the Dragons can’t agree on who should lead the club. One side says yes, the other says, not for me.
Wouldn’t you think quality coaches would be banging down their door to take charge of such a proud club.
Even when the board gets close to being on the same page, they somehow offer a rookie coach in Jason Ryles, who has never coached first grade, a salary of $800,000.
Without ever leading an NRL team, Ryles stood to earn more money than almost half of his would-be rival NRL coaches.
Heaven forbid he had some level of success. Imagine the pay-rise?
It’s both staggering and desperate leadership.
The decision by the St George Bank to flag their intention to walk away from the Dragons, after more than 40-years, as the $1 million per-season major sponsor, isn’t just a sickening punch to the stomach of Dragons fans.
It rocks the entire game.
As one leading NRL administrator commented: “When one club coughs, we all get a cold.”
V’landys and Abdo’s leadership, governance and decision-making expertise is pivotal to Saints putting out the trail of fire bins that follow their every move.
The fact that the Dragons can’t recognise they need help, is equally as staggering.
Both chairman Andrew Lancaster and CEO Ryan Webb are good people.
Lancaster is a Wollongong boy and also the hugely successful CEO of Win Corp.
He holds sway in at the NRL, having single-handedly campaigned V’landys for help in securing $40 million in government funding for a new centre of excellence at the University of Wollongong.
Webb freely admits he is a CEO with a greater focus on the commercial side of the business than the latest coaching trends, leg speed or sweep-plays.
They both have valuable credentials and boardroom nous, but right now, the Dragons need someone in at the NRL to tell them what to do.
The Tigers, Knights and Titans needed the NRL too.
One of the game’s most important clubs are literally eating themselves alive. Their decision-making is gripped by ego and blind-faith.
Ego is stopping them from phoning a friend at the NRL. It’s the same ego that led some members of the board away from available premiership-winning coach Shane Flanagan and towards rookie Ryles.
Blind-faith is underlined in the attempt to appoint a rookie coach without a head of recruitment or GM of football.
Perhaps, there’s once chance for change and it begins at board level.
The club currently has a 12-month rotation of the chairman written into the club’s constitution.
It was originally included so that both sides of the joint-venture – St George and Illawarra – could have an equal share of how the club is run.
As it stands, Lancaster is about to appoint a new coach even though he’s due to step down at the end of this season.
By the time pre-season training starts under the new coach, Lancaster may as well be on a beach in Hawaii.
There’s almost zero accountability.
However, the paperwork is in the process of being ripped up and replaced by a new constitution that will see the chairman remain in charge for a minimum three years.
It’s a start of sorts.
But not soon enough.
The Dragons needed help, yesterday