NRL gig is going to be tough

Recently departed NRL chief executive David Smith.
Recently departed NRL chief executive David Smith. Allan Reinikka

WHY would anyone in their right mind want to be chief executive of the NRL?

The same week that David Smith announced his departure as head honcho, one of his players was locked up in a New York jail, a role model and legend of the game was charged with domestic violence and a high-profile and successful coach was sacked.

And all this happened during the off-season.

There can be no doubt the role of NRL chief executive is a poisoned chalice.

Since the NRL was formed following the ARL-Super League war of 1997, four chief executives have run the game. And none has left with a smile on his face.

David Smith was on the back foot right from the start. He succeeded David Gallop who was so chummy with sections of the Sydney media they often scooped board members when breaking news.

So when the ex-Welsh banker could not name the Kangaroos captain at his first press conference, he was chastened.

And when he spoke of Benji Barba - not Ben - at the 2013 season launch, he was made to look a laughing stock.

That same section of the Sydney media that feted Gallop never let up on Smith, and in the end the character assassination became too much.

Sadly, he was rarely acclaimed for the progress the game made under his leadership.

And there was plenty. The most significant in my book was ridding rugby league of punching, the shoulder charge and - almost - the spear tackle. The game is brutal enough without these vicious and barbaric components.

While some will say he stuffed up with the recent pay and digital broadcast rights, the deal he executed with Channel 9 remains the biggest in the history of the code. Rest assured, when finalised, the other areas will be massive too.

And there is little doubt Smith handled the Cronulla supplements saga more professionally than his AFL counterparts handled the drawn-out issue with Essendon.

But there was still a plethora of dramas during his time at the top that blackened the name of rugby league - generally player-related matters that must, eventually, wear a man down.

Yet, the line-up wanting Smith's job is apparently out the door and down the street.

Former Manly coach Geoff Toovey, a qualified accountant and former board member of NRMA, is the latest name thrown into the ring.

He joins a long list that includes current NRL chief executives Paul White, Raelene Castle and Jim Doyle, as well as former chief executives Shane Richardson and Todd Greenberg, who already hold lofty positions at NRL headquarters.
My question remains, why?
What is so attractive about a job with such an attrition rate? Surely it's not just the salary, believed to be $1.3 million?

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