Tina and Todd dominate gossip at NRL season launch

Todd Greenberg has often mused that the constant speculation over the future of the game’s biggest names only adds to the theatre of rugby league.

On Thursday night, as he officially launched the NRL season at The Venue at Alexandria, it was Greenberg’s turn to feel the glare of that spotlight. The NRL chief executive is effectively the biggest name in rugby league off contract as the Australian Rugby League Commission ponders whether to trigger a two-year extension to his deal.

Todd Greenberg is facing questions about his future.Credit:Getty Images

It may well be Greenberg’s last season launch if some of the clubs get their way. Their share of the revenue pie is decreasing and they are unhappy about it. And, while there was uproar when predecessor Dave Smith didn’t know that Cameron Smith was the captain of the Kangaroos, there is a feeling that Greenberg is too close to Smith and select other players. There is no pleasing some people.

That sentiment also came across in the reaction to the league’s ‘new’ advertising campaign. The NRL remains unapologetic for pushing a theme of inclusiveness, as evidenced by the guest speakers at the launch. Mark Hughes spoke about the support his foundation has received in raising money for brain cancer; young teen Holly Summers opened up about league’s role during her bouts of depression; Chanelle Carr provided an insight into the opportunities for young indigenous players; and legendary forward Ian Roberts spoke about becoming the sport’s first openly gay male player.

It’s why the NRL hasn’t shied away from the campaign’s nods to Macklemore or the image of Latrell Mitchell draped in an indigenous flag, despite claims of a leftist leaning.

"Tonight, on this stage and around the room, you’ll see some of our game’s most memorable moments," Greenberg said of the 30 iconic images displayed throughout the venue from the past 30 years.

"They show what makes our sport so special – it’s raw, unpredictable and unfiltered. And as I know well, you certainly can’t script it.

"Fans can, and will, debate the moments – fiercely – but you can’t debate the music.
The slow build of those early beats. The lyrics. The goosebumps. A great song for a great game.

"It returns in 2020 because it is the most iconic soundtrack in rugby league history. Without question, Tina Turner’s classic unites, excites, and inspires … It made football sexy, made it real, and made people fall in love with the game …
"The music, the message, and rugby league – are still, Simply the Best."

The event was bookended by two performances of Simply The Best, by Storm star Dale Finucane and then Christine Anu and her daughter. The overriding message is clear: this is a sport for everybody. The only question that remains is who will be running it.

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