This article was first written for NRL.com.
It has been a week of celebration and chaos in rugby league – but that’s nothing new.
There has been celebration for the achievements of outgoing ARL chairman John Grant and commissioner Catherine Harris and chaos for the new boss, Peter Beattie.
The ARL is sweating on the results of a vote scheduled for March 12 which will hopefully result in the clubs and states being given two representatives apiece on a 10-person Commisison.
After that vote is settled, hopefully peacefully, Beattie and his ARLC will have the opportunity to shape our game.
Here are some key thoughts I hope they bear in mind, given they have been made the custodians of something exceptionally dear to me and that’s rugby league.
My first request for the new commission is to encourage them to remember that at their core, human beings have a desire to belong.
One of the key achievements of the game during the last year has been the agreement between the players and the NRL on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. During negotiations, the phrase “genuine partners” was used constantly.
The players wanted to be genuine partners and it looks like their wish has been granted.
Fans also want to feel like they are genuinely a part of the game too, so I applaud Beattie for his recent comments on the importance of transparency, the release of financial reports every three months and helping to bring fans on the journey, so they too can understand the importance of fans understanding why decisions at an ARLC level have been made the way they have.
I also encourage Beattie and the Commission to continue to focus on diversity and inclusion.
While he has demonstrated his commitment to the importance of gender diversity, indicating the next person to be appointed to the Commission will be a woman, inclusion is about far more than gender diversity.
I encourage the Commission to continue the work of the predecessors. During the last six years we have seen the NRL adopt a Reconciliation Action Plan and more recently become the first national sporting organisation to develop a RAP at an elevated level.
We have also seen renewed focus on the international game, particularly in the Pacific Islands, culminating in a World Cup in Australia where the men’s and women’s trophies were won by Australia and many nations competed for the first time (including the Papua New Guinea Orchids in the women’s competition).
But what I hope for the most is the Commission backs the women’s game with the same commitment their predecessors did.
The thing I will always remember about Grant and his wife Helen the most, was their fierce advocacy for the women’s game.
I remember seeing John and Helen at every single game the Australian Jillaroos played in last year’s World Cup, which is plenty more than can be said for others involved in the game at a high level.
While it’s very easy to say women’s sport is important, John and Helen not only said it with their words, but also with their actions.
This commitment to the women’s game was a key focus of the Commission during his tenure.
We saw it in 2013 with increased funding for the Jillaroos, which led to them being able to compete fully funded in a World Cup and bring home the trophy. Since that win, the women’s game has gone from strength to strength, to the point where the NRL was confident enough in its product to launch a women’s competition in 2018.
I encourage Peter and his team to maintain this commitment to ensuring little girls and boys can all grow up knowing they have the opportunity to represent their country in the sport they love.
While these may be requests from a fan who would call themselves highly engaged, for many fans when I asked them what they expected from the newly led ARLC, their response to me was “there’s a new Chairperson of the ARLC?”
Perhaps the biggest focus for Beattie and the Commission should be visibility.
As chairman, he is the face and voice of the ARLC and I look forward to him being unapologetic about the successes and triumphs of rugby league.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg often says we do not take enough opportunity to celebrate our success and I agree.
But not only do I hope to see Peter play this role, but I also hope to see his fellow Commissioners as fierce advocates of our game. Perhaps then the fans will follow and also be absolutely unapologetic about the successes and triumphs of the game we all love so much.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of NRL.com.