New NRL CEO Todd Greenberg Can Actually Name The Australian Captain. Phew

18/03/2016 12:50 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Mark Metcalfe via Getty Images
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 18: Todd Greenberg smiles during a NRL press conference at NRL Headquarters on March 18, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The NRL has a new CEO and he's the bloke everybody expected. Todd Greenberg, welcome to the big chair.

Greenberg grew up wanting to wear the baggy green cap of the Australian cricket team. He was a decent grade cricketer who faced Brett Lee in his prime. But sports administration became his calling and soon became really good at it.

Not that players were immediately sold on his credentials.

"'At the time I wasn't sure, I thought he was a bit of a risk," then Bulldogs fullback Luke Patten told Fairfax Media back in 2010. ''He didn't have the name, he didn't have the experience. At that stage we were just looking for some stability, maybe someone who had more of a profile. We were all a bit unsure."

Greenberg was in charge of the Canterbury Bulldogs from 2008 to 2013. By 2010 he had won over both fans and players with his philosophy of club first, team second, individual third. Like other players, Luke Patten was sold and saw bigger things ahead.

''He should be running the whole game. The ways he's turned our club around and brought in new ideas, he's a big chance. Hopefully not, because we'd like to keep him at the Bulldogs, but it's certainly something I can see happening.''

todd greenberg

There must have been some dark days while he awaited the top job nod.

Six years on, that's what's happened. John Grant, chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission, said the NRL had interviewed 30 people over three months but that Greenberg was a standout.

Grant said they'd been looking for three things. One, leadership qualities. Two, communication skills. And three, someone with a genuine love of rugby league.

That was the problem with the previous CEO David Smith, a banker who rebadged himself as "Dave" to blokify and rugby leaguify his image. But no one ever warmed to him. Shortly after his appointment in 2012, Smith was confronted with an iconic image on the wall at Rugby League Central. It featured current players, yet Smith could name none of them despite claiming to be a fan of the game.

He couldn't even name the Australian captain Cameron Smith, which really made you wonder how the guy cleared all those interview hurdles without doing five minutes of basic boning-up.

Greenberg had no such trouble on Friday. He said he'd already shared news of his appointment with Cameron Smith and Steph Hancock, captain of Australia's women's rugby league team, the Jillaroos.

"I understand the great history of this game," Greenberg said, which nobody doubts. He said he wanted to do two really simple things. One, get more people playing the game and two, get more people watching whether that be at the ground or on TV or digital platforms.

Then just to show that he was a man of the people but also a man of mahogany row, he used the fancy plural word "stadia" instead of stadiums.

He also demonstrated his corporate credentials when he swatted away journalists' questions on assorted issues du jour, such as the brewing Parramatta Eels salary cap controversy.

But there will always be hot potatoes, just as there will always be refereeing controversies. This year, however, dodgy on-field decisions have noticeably dropped off. The reason for this is unquestionably the "video bunker".

nrl bunker

A man. A bunch of screens. Lots of data. What could go wrong? Well, less than last year.

If there's one thing that secured Greenberg the top job, it's the bunker. He championed it in his previous role as NRL head of football, and it has worked. It's that sort of can-do attitude which earned Greenberg the nod ahead of the professional admin types with their business accumen.

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