NRL propose coaches association as crisis continues
NRL's current coach crisis has the national body working overtime to prevent such a drama happening again.
After the Penrith Panthers axed coach Anthony Griffin earlier this month — despite the team being well inside the top eight and in finals contention — the rumour mill has now implicated coaches from at least four other clubs and it is having an impact on the players.
This week, the heads of the NRL and the Rugby League Players Association [RLPA] proposed tightened agent regulations and the establishment of the long-talked-about coaches association as soon as early next season.
"For the last maybe 12 months I've been in dialogue with all 16 coaches across our clubs about the formation of what would be called a Coaches Association." NRL boss Todd Greenberg said.
"It's very much about professional guidance and professional services for the coaches — providing welfare and general support for what are very difficult roles.
"It's not just about the head coaches, it's about the multiple assistant coaches in the elite part of the game.
"We've been talking about this for a number of months now and I'd be expecting that by the early part of next year we may have assisted the coaches to set that up."
Greenberg confirmed the NRL would fund the association as well as requiring coaches to each contribute a membership fee.
"I've sat around with a number of coaches over the years who've left their clubs, that have lost their roles with clubs, and the impact is tough … like Anthony Griffin who left the Penrith Panthers recently," he said.
"Whilst all that's played out in the media, what people don't understand is the impact that will have on Anthony's family, his children, the way they go about their daily activities, whether they're going to school or university — these are hard things to deal with for a lot of people.
"Whilst they impact on the top line across supporters and fans and members of those clubs, and the people that are emotionally connected, we should never lose sight of the fact that we're dealing with human beings and we must make sure we have the right support networks in place for particularly those types of issues that we face."
Combined with stricter operating systems for player/coach agents, Greenberg admitted the Coaches Association would not completely prevent another occurrence of the current crisis but it would help reduce the impact across the rugby league network.
"I think it will help but I don't think it's the panacea for all of these issues," he said.
"What is difficult is when you are going through either innuendo or speculation, or people feeding certain agendas … that's a difficult part of what we face in a very, very, public industry."
The recommended changes to player/coach agent regulations, presented to NRL club bosses in the past week, would now require more of a 'buy-in' to the governing body's agenda for the game, aiming to reduce the constant rumour-fuelled media speculation used to drive up the price of an agent's client.
"At the moment, the one key constituent group that sits outside the framework of our rules and regulations are the player agents so we see great merit in bringing them inside the fold," Greenberg said.
"Some of these difficulties that the game faces continually — with big sagas and media issues — will make it difficult occasionally for us to bring new fans into the game.
"That's a real challenge for rugby league … to grow the sport we've got to make sure that we protect it with everything we've got."