Thought I’d post up an interesting chat with David Gallop in today’s Daily Telegraph about all things NRL. The questions will be bold, and Gallop’s answers will be in normal font.

Tell the fans, when will the independent commission be up and running?
I’m not involved in the process at this stage. I’m hopeful that the first eight commissioners will be appointed in the next month or so. The difficulty at the moment is managing the weight of expectation. People need to be reminded that the effects of the restructuring of the administration of the game will involve short term, medium term and long term [decisions].

What impact does the delay have on any talk of expansion for 2013?
What I have said for some time is that by the middle of 2011 we will be ready to look at expansion, whether we decide to postpone it or put a date on it.

Michael Searle said the other day it wouldn’t happen for at least five years – can you see any new teams entering the competition in 2013?
I certainly think the impact on the existing 16 clubs and the game’s development programs are paramount to the question. If there was to be a new team, as I’ve said to the various bid teams, they need to have a sustainable model not just for their own district but they need to be bringing something to the table that everyone can benefit from. Be it increasing the game’s national profile which will help with broadcasting and sponsorship, or it’s shoring up a strategic area the game has to be conscious of, they are the types of things that need to be considered.

Has the NRL turned its back on the Coast? Do the fans up there have a right to feel frustrated?
I think the whole demise of the North Sydney Bears, the fact that they were going to move to the Central Coast, that is a frustrating episode in the game’s history. The merit of a team at Gosford is obvious, you’ve got a ready-made stadium, you’ve got a population that loves the game, you’ve got potential to reconnect to the traditional North Sydney fans, the corporate support of the North Shore. But to be fair, they are still working on their financial model, I think they would say it is not quite ready to present. I have met with them since Christmas and they would say they are still fine-tuning their financial model.

I interviewed Billy Slater the other day and, living in Melbourne, he says sometimes it feels like rugby league is being left in the AFL’s wake in respect to planning for the future. What do you say to Billy?
The games are in different phases, we expanded to the Gold Coast relatively recently. Even Melbourne Storm are relatively new.

Does the game now need to expand?
The game needs to have a quality competition. Every game needs to be high quality, and that’s the thing that our broadcasters and sponsors recognise … having said that, financially we haven’t got our existing clubs to a point where they are necessarily flush with money and that is a concern if you’re considering expansion.

Where are negotiations at for a new TV deal?
No TV negotiations have started and they won’t start until the commission is in place. There has been some mischievous reporting about that. It is in everyone’s interest, including the current partners, to do the best by the game. Naturally, we are talking to the networks and reminding them what the game brings in terms of ratings and interest. And the reply back is great. They have all shown interest and indicated that when you are ready to talk, we are ready to talk.

Will you demand more control of the scheduling so that the TV bosses don’t always dictate what day games will be played?
A fixed schedule is a goal of ours and we need to access the dollar impact of that.

They will always push for total control?
The clubs and fans would like to know with certainty what day their teams are playing, we recognise that. On the other hand, the current scheduling arrangement does give us the opportunity to have the big games on TV and that’s worth money, to the broadcasters and to us. I envisage we will talk to the broadcasters about how they value a fixed schedule and how they value a rolling schedule that we use. And then the commission will have to make a decision about which one of them to go for.

Does the fact the commission is not up and running jeopardise the NRL’s bargaining power?
Not necessarily, they still recognise our game’s power. They know we are coming up – and they have all indicated they are interested.

What about the investigation by the State Crime Commission into that Bulldogs/Cowboys match from last season. Will it be finalised before the start of the season?
Police have been talking to us, they are involved in a process. It is obviously our hope that we get some determination from them, one way or another, as soon as possible.

Can we start a new season not knowing the outcome?
Ideally we would like to know as soon as possible but I don’t think we can put pressure on the police on the basis that we are nearing the start of the season.

Have you had an indication when the investigation’s conclusion is likely?
No guarantees but I would think we would be hopeful we know something in the next few weeks. The whole episode is a concern and clearly, with the help of the chief steward of Racing NSW [Ray Murrihy], we got to the position where we felt there were issues that the police needed to look at. Whether that leads to charges, we don’t know at this stage.

It seems to me that you are very concerned?
Clearly, the fact we referred it on to police, and that Ray Murrihy didn’t report to us, “Don’t worry about it”, it is clear this is for the police to best determine.

Will there be any other games investigated?
Not at this stage.

Prescription drugs. In the wake of what happened this week with the St Kilda AFL players suspended for taking prescription drugs, I spoke to a few people today, it is always off the record this topic, but people involved in the game say it is a big problem that is getting bigger. Your thoughts?
It is definitely a concern. Generally, if one of these things has happened in one code then we are not naive enough to think that it won’t be happening in ours as well. We’ve dealt with our own rumours previously and we’ve certainly stepped up our education

Last year Roosters hooker Jake Friend was found carrying Valium tablets prescribed to an 89-year-old female nursing home patient when he was arrested in Coogee. The court heard he was spotted passing an object to Todd Carney and the family of the 89-year-old was demanding an explanation. You said at the time the Roosters owed them one, did they ever get one?
I’m not sure if they did. But again, that’s a reminder to players they can find themselves in trouble with police.

Friend pleaded guilty to the charges. Did you find out how he got the tablets?

Can testing be done for prescription drugs, can it be monitored?
Not that I’m aware of. I don’t think they come up in illicit substance tests and I certainly don’t think it is done by ASADA. But it does put extra responsibility on the people in clubs who are distributing them.

But the Roosters didn’t distribute these?
No, they didn’t.

Chris Houston. Did the Knights pay for his legal defence because he turned up with two barristers and a QC, which is a lot when you are on a labourer’s wage?
No, I don’t know if they did.

Is it worth investigating?
No, I don’t think it is our place to investigate whether a club chooses to help a player with his legal representation.

But would that go on the cap?

So, if they did?
That’s a good point, except for the purpose of salary cap I don’t think it is a general issue.

If they defended him it would have cost a stack, shouldn’t that go on the cap?
Yeah, well, it’s similar to the Greg Inglis situation

So will it be investigated?
Yeah, it will certainly be part of an audit of the Knights, it will probably be part of a pre-season declaration that will be due in March.

As I understand it, the wording of the law was crucial here in his defence. The police had to prove Houston “incited” Wicks to sell the drugs to him – which means that if Houston hadn’t asked, Wicks wouldn’t have sold him the drugs. But given Wicks had pleaded guilty to selling to him and others, they would struggle to say he “incited” it. It was never questioned that Wicks had sold drugs to Houston, which Wicks pleaded guilty to. The case was thrown out of court. So do you agree Houston did nothing wrong?
Well, it’s been dealt with by the courts and it wouldn’t be right of us to second-guess the court’s decision. We obviously read what happened with the prosecution but at this stage we have nothing we could rely on to take the matter further and we have taken legal advice on that.

The salary cap. It’s always the players’ biggest gripe. They say more needs to be done to stop the exodus overseas and to AFL. Can more be done?
We have made some relatively big changes, not only concessions around third-party agreements, long-serving players, lifted rep payments significantly and lifted the cap itself at a time when we weren’t able to cover all that with a lift in the club grant.

Nathan Tinkler. Can Newcastle afford to say no?
Anytime someone walks into the room with deep pockets and says I want to support your footy club, it’s hard to say no.

Have you met with him?
I have, I met with him when he made the previous offer. You can’t help but be impressed by his personal success and his ambition to see the community benefit from his personal interest.

Did he tell you why he loves Newcastle so much?
Yeah he did. And he said it’s pretty simple. he feels like he’s done good, as Jack [Gibson] would have said. And he would like to put something back. Pretty hard to say no to that.

Yeah he did. And he said it’s pretty simple. he feels like he’s done good, as Jack [Gibson] would have said. And he would like to put something back. Pretty hard to say no to that.
(Laughs) It is hard but I find the fact that Benji plays like he plays, and managed to play every game last year, having been a guy who everyone said a few years ago was injury-prone, if I had to plump for someone, I think it would be Benji.

Do you have a team – you’re allowed to have a team?

C’mon, every fan has a favourite team?
No, I tend to change on a weekly basis these days because if I see someone lose three games in a row then I know their home crowd is going to be down if they don’t start winning. You tend to worry about other things … I sometimes get jealous of those people who can just go for one team, no holds barred.

By ricky

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