Having spent seven months in a vicious
no-holds-barred contest with the “traditionalists” for the control of the South
Rabbitohs, Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court are about to find out the
battle has only just begun.

With the support of just over 75%
of club members, Crowe and Holmes a Court now control 75% of the
Rabbitohs – an overwhelming mandate by any measure.

Their challenge now is to build a football
team that will be genuinely competitive in a very competitive NRL premiership.
And given that the season is now two weeks old, they won’t be able to make a
serious impact until 2007.

The greatest challenge will be recruiting
some proven players to form the nucleus of a strong and competitive team.

In doing so they face competition from existing NRL clubs, from
new 2007 entrant the Gold Coast Titans, and from two areas not limited by
salary cap or “anti-tampering” laws – the Australian Rugby Union and the UK Super League.

The Titans have recruited the stand out
player of the 2005 grand final, Scott Prince, while the ARU is about to make a
massive bid for one of the game’s best players, the Dragons’ Mark Gasnier. Super
League clubs are waving fat cheque books around as well.

One hopes their player recruitment campaign
is more realistic than the board of directors recruitment campaign now under
way. Suggestions that Eddie “Everywhere” McGuire might join the board
gets a headline, but can it possibly be a serious proposal?

The major football codes are co-operating
more than ever, but the president of an AFL club being on the
Board of an NRL club (in another city) is really stretching co-operation too
far.

Privatisation is the “in” word in rugby
league. Late last week, WIN Television acquired a 25% stake in the St George-Illawarra
Dragons for around $6 million. It won’t see the Dragons cashed up though –
every dollar will go towards paying off the debt the Illawarra half of the
joint venture has run up, and that has been carried by the St George Leagues
Club.

Peter Fray

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