It has been a David and Goliath battle for one man battling to ensure his sporting code’s survival and indeed last night David won.
From the very start of Covid-19 shutdown in Australia, National Rugby League’s chairman Peter V’Landys has been firm.
He has drawn the ire of the Australian Medical Association for his claims that rugby league should never have shut down during this pandemic and should have kept going like Australian racing did.
There have been no incidents at all within racing and it has carried on in its own little bubble.
V’Landys, one man, facing an uphill battle to get Australian sport moving.
He called May 28 from word go. A date considered “impossible” and “fanciful” by other codes but he has had the last laugh without actually wanting to.
An estimated 300 million worldwide audience tuned in to watch the Brisbane Broncos and the Parramatta Eels; a great exposure not just for the game but for the sponsors. There is literally nothing else around to watch.
The tenacity of V’Landys has given his sport a two–week headstart on its rival code of AFL which is scheduled to begin on June 11. In the chaos, he has also nailed a new TV deal for NRL.
V’Landys has repeatedly said he wanted to see common sense used.
He reckoned there should have been a crowd at this opening game and told 2GB he couldn’t see why there couldn’t be.
That’s set him up for another fight with the New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who said while she was pleased to have NRL back on TV to give some normality to her state she couldn’t see crowds returning by July 1.
Her comments came after Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone described the NRL’s push to have crowds by the start of July as “absurd and dangerous”.
But V’Landys remains resolute in his mission.
“And you have to base it on data, not emotional scare-mongering clichés. That’s what they do. They bring up these clichés that put fear into people,” he said.
“They’ve got no data to show. The infection rate is less than half a per cent – how low do we need to get it? What we have to be doing is assessing the risk and acting accordingly, rather than having this overall blanket policy that is stifling everyone,” he added.
Much like the resistance US President Donald Trump faced when he pushed to reopen America, saying his country was not built to be shutdown.
Trump was one step ahead of the game in getting the American psyche ready to try to get out of this pandemic and the associated economic meltdown.
V’Landys also saw the same sense in trying to get Australian sport back in the nation’s psyche. He has now succeeded in a quest thought absolutely impossible just weeks ago.
No one is criticising the actions Australia took at the start of this pandemic shutdown journey but two months later our landscape is so different that some common sense must kick in.
V’Landys has also delivered financial stability for NRL through to 2027 by sealing a billion-dollar new TV broadcast deal thought impossible before he took over the NRL just before the shutdown.
“Project Apollo” was the name given to the NRL’s aim for its relaunch. Much like landing on the moon, few thought it possible.
NRL took one small step for sport but one giant step for showing other sporting codes –- and all of Australia — what can be achieved by thinking when everyone else was panicking.
There is no doubt the NRL mission was well and truly accomplished.
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