<
>

NRL Real or Not: Grand Final circus was embarrassing

This week we take a look at Peter V'landys' cringe-worthy performance in announcing the future of the NRL Grand Final, Kalyn Ponga's disregard for Knights culture and what damage Cameron Munster's money grab could do to the Storm.

Read on as we tackle some of the big talking points in the latest edition of NRL Real or Not.


Giving the NRL Grand Final to the highest bidder is best for the fans

NOT REAL: It seemed fitting that the circus surrounding the negotiations to decide the host city for this year's NRL Grand Final ended with a clown-like routine from NRL boss Peter V'landys. Saint Peter began the performance with a dead pan announcement that the game's showpiece event was actually heading south.

"So we wanted to give it to a city that needs a major football event, and that is why we have gone with Melbourne," V'landys said.

"Just kidding... greetings Gil [McLachlan], if you are watching."

V'Landys went on to confirm that Sydney was the host for this year only, before the possible implementation of a new system, whereby the Grand Final would be offered up to the highest bidder. Kind of like the Olympics, or FIFA World Cup.

"We have made a decision, which we believe is in the best interest of our fans and that is to hold the game in Sydney this year," V'landys explained.

He then took a parting shot at NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.

"A very good premier, but don't make a bet with him because if you win he won't pay you."

Hilarity aside, surely the best thing for the fans is to have the Grand Final played at the stadium with the largest capacity, giving the greatest number of those fans the opportunity to be part of the occasion. So, unless the winning bid comes from Melbourne's MCG, Sydney should continue to host the decider at Homebush.

The blank cheques state governments are lining up to hand over to the NRL do absolutely nothing for the 40,000 fans who will miss out on going to the big one when it is held in a 45,000 capacity stadium.


Something on the nose about the Ponga story

REAL: Let's not even begin to speculate about what Kalyn Ponga and Kurt Mann were doing in the same cubicle of the men's room in a Newcastle bar. Let's not even bother attacking the patron who decided it would be a good idea to video them as they were asked to leave. The good folk on social and mainstream media have done more than enough on both fronts.

Let's instead take a look at what could be reasonably expected from the highest paid player and captain of a professional rugby league club. A player who has missed a fair chunk of playing time through injury and who will sit out the rest of this season as he recovers from concussion related issues.

And we are talking about a club that has woefully underperformed this season and which has developed such a bad culture that they have brought in a serious front office presence in the form of Peter Parr. Poor Peter has parachuted into the middle of massive bushfire and is now expected to bring it under control. In his first week he handled the David Klemmer blow-up, before moving on to disciplining Bradman Best and Enari Tuala for missing the team bus and then dealing with this Ponga situation. He spoke to the media about the club's problems.

"If you're not getting what some people consider the smaller things right, you're no hope of getting the bigger picture stuff right.

"We've got a fair bit of work to do, there's no doubt about that. We've got to improve some of the standards we've seen over the last couple of weeks."

"We're going through a tough period at the moment, just about all of it self-inflicted, so we have to own that and work out how we're going to get better," Parr said.

A club's culture is that intangible quality which is most noticeable when broken or completely missing. Seldom does a club succeed on the field without a strong culture, it is what bonds the players and has them willing to sacrifice their own well-being for the good of their teammates and the pride in their jersey. Parr also made a not-so-veiled reference to Ponga's captaincy.

"There has been a lack of leadership around the playing group," Parr said.

"It's a young group, just because you make somebody a leader, or put them in a position of leadership, doesn't necessarily mean they're going to grasp the leadership straight away."

What message did Knights' captain Ponga send to his teammates, by being caught up in this incident? How little effort would it have taken to keep himself and the club out of the ugly headlines and public speculation? I would venture to say that only someone who didn't really care about his role in representing his club when out in public would even allow themselves to be in that situation -- whatever it was they were doing in the same cubicle of a men's toilet.


Munster's pay claim to damage fabric of Storm

REAL: Melbourne Storm have built their storied success on the back of making good players exceptional in a system where everyone has a clear role. Players have reportedly signed up with the Storm for less money because they know they are in with a very good shot of achieving premiership glory.

Since the Storm started keeping just the one set of books, they, like all clubs, have to maintain a delicate balancing act in making sure all the pieces fit within the salary cap. Melbourne has always had its superstar players in amongst the toilers, but you rarely hear of them engaging in a battle for more money.

Cameron Munster, no doubt a superstar of the game, has had his negotiations with the club dragged into the spotlight. Perhaps having media personality Braith Anasta as his manager hasn't helped.

"I think ideally Cameron and myself would like them to move more on the salary cap than where they are at right now," Anasta said on NRL360.

"When they signed Papenhuyzen, Hughes, Grant and Coates, that unfortunately limited their ability to move on the cap because they prioritised those players.

"That is where we are at the moment. Hopefully they may be able to move somehow between now and November 1. It doesn't mean that he won't sign before then because he loves the club. He may sign after November."

Meanwhile his teammates are left wondering whether they were wrong in assuming that playing for the Storm was something special, something beyond a squabble over a few hundred thousand dollars. Perhaps they would be better off if Munster went to the highest bidder, leaving them to focus on the Storm mantra they bought into when they first signed on.