Non-lovers of league need not apply for top NRL job

NRL CEO David Smith speaks at the NRL Season Launch in Sydney, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
NRL CEO David Smith speaks at the NRL Season Launch in Sydney, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING MICK TSIKAS

The NRL Commission will not be rushed into naming a replacement for outgoing chief executive Dave Smith, who will hand over the reins at the end of next month.

But one thing is certain, the man who replaces Smith, who confirmed he was walking out on November 30 at a press conference yesterday, has to be a man who has a passion and love of league.

The Welsh-born banking heavyweight failed to convince some he had them when he replaced David Gallop in November 2012.

Australian Rugby League chairman John Grant praised Smith's contribution to the game, which included introducing a number of rule changes to improve player safety, toughening up policies on domestic violence and drug policies and negotiating part of the game's latest TV rights, a job he leaves unfinished.

During his time he had to deal with the ASADA drugs minefield and other off-field issues which confronted rugby league.

He said he felt he had set things in motion and laid the platform for his successor to put their feet under his desk and continue to take the game forward.

Grant, however, could not guarantee who that next person would be or if he would be in the job when the 2016 season kicks off next March.

Former club chiefs and pro-activists Todd Greenberg and Shane Richardson, two men who currently hold key positions with the NRL and understand how clubs operate, have been mentioned as Smith's replacement.

But Grant indicated the net would be cast far and wide for the next public face of the game.

"It's now up to the ARL Commission to find the right man to consolidate the changes Smith implemented," he said.

When he first came on board Smith told the commission it would take him three to five years to build a platform to grow the game.

He said he was leaving with rugby league in a "stronger and healthier" state than it was when he arrived.

"My job was to come in and make changes," he said. "That's what I've done, but that job is never finished.

"We are financially robust with clubs getting a better deal and our fans getting more games on free-to-air, which I don't hear them complaining about."

Smith's critics believe his failure to shut the door on other potential TV rights suitors played a part in his sudden exit.

Insiders believe he lost the support of some powerful club directors, bitterly disappointed with how he handled the TV rights deal.

North Queensland chief executive Greg Tonner led the tributes to Smith, saying he had shown a keen interest in the Cowboys, visiting Townsville for north Queensland home games on several occasions this season, including the elimination semi-final when it beat the Sharks.

"I'd like to thank Dave for all his support for the Cowboys during his tenure," Tonner said.

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