ARL to postpone NRL expansion
NRL expansion, I am reliably informed, is off the agenda. And it might well be up to a decade before the subject is revisited.
An official announcement/explanation from the ARL Commission is expected before the end of August, and when that comes many noses - understandably - will be well and truly out of joint. The money spent by those hopeful of being invited to play in the big game will never be recouped.
But that is exactly the reason the commission has called a halt to what had developed into something of a farce. Too many hopefuls were being strung along, and we cannot afford to alienate anyone who has a monetary passion for our game.
Eight consortiums have been bidding for two new franchises. And it is estimated those bid teams - the NSW Central Coast, Papua New Guinea, two Perth franchises, Central Queensland, Western Corridor (Ipswich), Brisbane and Wellington - have spent more than $10 million collectively on their bids.
While that might be a drop in the ocean when the ARLC is looking at a new TV rights deal in excess of $1 billion, it is still a travesty. Why these bid teams were hung out to dry for so long, each obviously believing they were in with a chance, is a poor reflection on the former administration.
Results this season have yet again convinced the powers-that-be that our competition, generally, is in great shape. With seven rounds to go and four points separating the top seven teams, the premiership race is as open as I can recall.
Not only has tipping become a toss-of-the coin situation most weekends, but crowds are on the increase, memberships are going through the roof and TV ratings have been outstanding. The only downer is the financial plight of some clubs.
And that is why the ARLC has put a hold on expansion. The belief is that what we have should not be diluted, and expansion should only occur when all 16 current clubs are working under profitable models.
If, in five years, the clubs currently struggling are still doing it tough, the bell will more than likely toll for them in the form of relocation or amalgamation, with expansion a last resort.
All bets are off
Those who don't believe betting on sport is out of control will be interested to learn that the agent managing the affairs of Penrith defector Luke Lewis has demanded negotiating parties sign a confidentiality clause.
Veteran player manager Greg Willett has confirmed that he had asked negotiating clubs to sign the confidentiality agreement, saying he had never previously heard of a market being framed on where a player might sign. It's a first for me, too.
At least one bookmaker set a market on where Lewis will play next year, with the Sharks the favourite at $2.25 and the Eels the longshots at $26. If this is not a recipe for corruption I am a poor judge. Imagine the pressure on anyone in whom has Lewis confided, plus the club officials who were privy to any negotiations.
Surely the NRL has the power to step in and nip this kind of gambling in the bud before it becomes farcical.
I am comfortable with the decision by the NRL judiciary to find Sam Kasiano not guilty of his high tackle charge, but I can understand others being less than impressed.
The ingredients were there for a suspension - Fuifui Moimoi was knocked cold by a hit to the head, a no-no in our game; having him stagger from the field, albeit assisted, was a bad look; and Kasiano had form.
But those who understand the game realise it was an accident - except maybe NRL prosecutor Peter Kite, who accused Kasiano of 'swinging his arm wildly'. And accidents do happen in the game.
Take the collision between Manu Vatuvei and Sam Thaiday last week. Thaiday was struck in the head by the knee of Vatuvei and knocked senseless. Why then was Manu not charged?
Commonsense prevailed, of course, that's why. And thankfully, commonsense also prevailed at the judiciary on Wednesday night.