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Sport Why V'landys 'cheap shots' at AFL went too far

05:27  23 september  2020
05:27  23 september  2020 Source:   wwos.nine.com.au

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The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman says if he had his time again he "would have thought twice about stopping the game" referring to On the eve of the NRL men's and women's grand finals, Peter V ' landys reflected on "a challenging time" not just for rugby league but "for the

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  Why V'landys 'cheap shots' at AFL went too far © AAP

As Victoria's second wave began to take hold, the AFL was forced to desert its heartland and seek refuge further north to ensure the viability of the 2020 season.

The Queensland Government came to the party and at one stage or another this season, hosted all 18 AFL clubs, including players, their families and officials.

Now, Queensland has been rewarded for its willingness to help the AFL and will host next month's AFL Grand Final.

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Let's be clear: this was not some hostile takeover by the AFL, nor an invasion to conquer the sporting landscape in the sunshine state. It was a last-ditch move the league had to make to guarantee the survival of the season.

You would think given the circumstances - namely a global pandemic, and the state of disaster unfolding in Victoria - that the AFL's temporary move into NRL heartland might be accepted by the ARL Commission and even supported. After all, aren't we all in this together?

But it seems that even amidst the greatest crisis in a generation, the ARLC chairman, Peter V'landys, can't set aside his disdain for the AFL. Throughout the year, V'landys has repeatedly put down, mocked and taken swipes at the rival code that he believes is "trying to take the NRL heartland".

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Yes, V'landys has had his fair share of critics amongst the Victorian media, myself included. And V'landys is more than entitled to return serve, as are members of the NRL media.

But think about V'landys position of power and the role that he holds.

When he speaks, his words carry weight, especially when critical of a rival code. That's why you seldom hear sporting executives criticise other codes and you'll certainly never hear (at least not publicly) AFL chairman, Richard Goyder, nor his CEO, Gillon McLachlan, criticise the NRL.

So why does V'landys feel the need to continually take cheap shots at the AFL?

Is it about pumping up his and the NRL's own tyres? Or is about bringing down a rival that is in some ways a threat to the NRL's northern dominance?

V'landys has labelled the presence of the AFL in Queensland being akin to having "pesky relatives" over and revealed he has "zero" sympathy for Melburnians who will this year, for the first time ever, lose the event they cherish most: the Grand Final (which he's also referred to as a "second rate event").

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Shane Edwards et al. posing for the camera: Richmond captain Trent Cotchin holds the premiership trophy aloft after last year's AFL Grand Final. © The Age Richmond captain Trent Cotchin holds the premiership trophy aloft after last year's AFL Grand Final.

Whilst I have no doubt the AFL's increased presence in Queensland this year has garnered renewed support for the code, the impact on the NRL's supporter base will be negligible. The reason is simple: there's enough room for the AFL and NRL to coexist.

Yes, there will probably be some NRL fans who jump off one bandwagon and jump on to the other. But that's likely to be because the all-conquering Brisbane Broncos have fallen off a cliff, while the Brisbane Lions have taken all before them.

However, V'landys won't concede there's enough room for both codes. In fact he insists once the AFL's top brass returns to Melbourne the "novelty will wear off very quickly".

It's fine to think that - but what if the novelty doesn't wear off?

The NRL's approach of flippantly brushing off the AFL's presence in South-East Queensland is foolish at best. Whilst both codes can survive in each other's shadow, neither should take its position for granted and V'landys must realise this when it comes to NRL heartland.

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V'landys approach of mocking the AFL and holding the line that it will never threaten "rugba league" is very Trumpian in approach. It's a good sound bite and will get people talking. But ultimately, it counts for nothing.

a man wearing a suit and tie: ARLC chairman Peter V'landys (L) after the NRL shut down earlier this year. © AAP ARLC chairman Peter V'landys (L) after the NRL shut down earlier this year.

A scenario no one could've predicted has presented the AFL an opportunity to grow its product in Queensland. That growth doesn't need to be, nor should it be, at the expense of the NRL.

But the AFL isn't going anywhere and its power to market and appeal to a new fan base shouldn't be underestimated. One need look no further than the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns to see the continued success of Aussie Rules in South-East Queensland.

Pete's pugnacity might be fun to watch but if his contempt for the AFL is as real as he makes it out to be, it may be time to heed the old adage: "Keep your friends close, your enemies closer."

Shane McInnes is an AFL commentator and sports broadcaster with 3AW, 6PR and Nine Radio. You can follow him on Twitter: @shanemcinnes.

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