We hear so often about the concept of leadership.
But what is it?
Is it the ability to read the room?
To read the future?
To convince your followers you’re right when they think you’re wrong?
To overturn the orthodoxy of the day?
To predict and prepare for the future?
A combination of everything?
What you consider pivotal to leadership will define how you rate the leadership of the two men effectively running the rival football codes in Australia right now (sorry soccer and rugby union, you’ve missed out on the adults table this time round).
Last night, to my sheer delight (until Parramatta ran up a score), rugby league was back on television.
Live sport was back!
The AFL returns in two weeks from now, yet we heard plenty of snark comments from the “national” game this week about the leadership of Peter V’Landys.
Tim Watson led the way, claiming that talking to two Premiers was more complex than international diplomacy.
Yes, Tim said:
““Look, I don’t want to start a war between the AFL and the NRL, but I would just like to point this out to push-ahead Pete and that is that it is a little more complex with a national game, accommodating teams from five different states as opposed to the NRL which has people in Queensland, New South Wales and New Zealand,””
If Tim Watson was the only choice on an election ballot, I’d rather be fined for not voting.
Then Garry Lyon chipped in, having a crack about crowds.
Which is ironic given peter V’Landys is already talking about crowds in July.
Yes, V’Landys is being mocked for it, but he wads mocked for marking May 28 as a return date.
Peter did it anyway, and now he’s being mocked for marking July 1 as the date he wants to start returning crowds to the NRL, albeit slowly.
Much of the drama happening right now can be traced back to the drugs saga of 2013.
Cronulla and Essendon got stung, and the AFL went into full negotiation and suck up mode with the Labor Government.
Cronulla, and the NRL, said ‘do your worst’ and copped it on the chin.
I raise these issues because the return of sport, right now, is about leadership.
Or, more accurately, the lack of AFL is down to a lack of leadership, while the return of the NRL has been because of an abundance of it.
Peter V’Landys has been at the coalface, trying to find solutions, pushing ideas and sometimes asking forgiveness rather than permission.
On the other hand, Gil McLachlan has been content to sit back, be told what to do by bureaucracy and just cop it.
Which brings me to the showdown.
Even someone like me knows how much the showdown between the Crows and Power means, and how badly people want to attend it.
So why did Gil McLachlan and the AFL submit so meekly when the SA Government said no to interstate travel, in deciding to play the showdown in the (re)opening round of the AFL?
The NRL even showed the roadmap of how to lay out the draw, with the bulk of blockbuster rivalries being laid out at the back end of the season.
But the AFL decided to stick the showdown at the start, knowing no fans would be allowed in.
I’m struggling to understand how this is smart marketing on the AFL’s part.
Surely you have enough blockbuster Melbourne matchups to mark the return to the game without having to run out the interstate rivalries to begin the season.
Can you imagine what two showdowns in three weeks, with crowds, might have been like at the back end of this season?
But that would require the AFL to show some gumption and fight to get the game back, which has been sorely lacking in 2020.
Leadership is about backing yourself when you’re right, but if you aren’t prepared to back yourself when you’ve got clubs at risk of falling over, including both Adelaide clubs, then where’s the passion and desire?
The L in AFL stands for League, which is ironic, given it is rugby league which has shown real leadership in getting back on the park.
I’d suggest a more accurate word in the name of the competition would be Australian Football Lackeys.