This time last year, Todd Greenberg sought the counsel of several former cricketers — including Steve Waugh — about taking on Cricket Australia’s vacant chief executive position.
A former keeper-batsman for Randwick who started his sporting administration journey at Cricket NSW, it’s a job he coveted long before he became chief executive of the NRL.
After losing an ugly power play with ARL chairman Peter V’landys in April last year, he also needed a job. There’s only so much golf someone can play.
Yet the advice that came back to him, as he eyed the big office at CA’s headquarters at Jolimont in Melbourne, couldn’t have been any clearer: don’t do it, not now, not under this current board.
There was also a firm feeling that interim chief executive Nick Hockley, who stepped in after Kevin Roberts’ resignation midway through last year, was a certainty for the position.
Instead, Greenberg applied for another role: chief executive of the Australian Cricketers’ Association. He was appointed in January while Hockley, as expected, was ratified as CA chief executive in May.
Is Todd Greenberg already destined for bigger things in cricket? Credit:Fairfax Media
It has taken just a few months to show that Greenberg would have been the better man for the top job. The Tim Paine saga has exposed — again — the leadership vacuum that exists in Australian cricket.
“We’re very fortunate to have him in charge of the players’ association,” one player told this column. “But we all know he should be doing the big job.”
From the decision to keep Paine as captain when it first learned in May 2018 that he’d sent a dick pic to a Cricket Tasmania staffer, to then backflipping last week on its integrity unit’s finding that the exchange was “consensual”, to now squabbling like Kings Cross bin chickens over who’s right, who’s wrong and who knew what, it’s become evident the people who run the sport care mostly about survival.
It’s hardly breaking news for the players, who haven’t felt supported by head office for years.
As revealed by the Herald and The Age this week, they are furious about the lack of support Paine has been shown. They found out about the Australian captain standing down minutes before the rest of the country as a teary Paine read out his media statement.
The following day, Hockley and chairman Richard Freudenstein fronted their own media conference. It was a car crash.
Freudenstein sent out so many mixed messages it’s still difficult to know what to make of it. Hockley seemed afraid to open his mouth in front of the press, lest he say the wrong thing. Hardly strong leadership in a time of crisis.
Watching all this from the sidelines is Greenberg, who in his four years as NRL chief executive, and five years before that as boss of the always controversial Bulldogs, dealt with far uglier issues than a dick pic scandal.
Unlike Hockley, he understands the importance of talking strongly on an issue, instead of hiding from it.
On Monday, he fronted Gerard Whateley’s program on SEN Radio.
Whateley is intelligent and certainly no pussycat when it comes to pointy interviews, but Greenberg handled him with aplomb, treading a fine line of defending Paine, but not his actions, while whacking Freudenstein for his arse-covering performance two days earlier.
He even produced a clever quote: “I understand the expectations of the community, but we are not appointing the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
Greenberg’s critics in rugby league argued he was nothing more than a soundbite; that he talked and acted like a politician and didn’t get much done.
Cricket Australia chairman Richard Freudenstein and CEO Nick Hockley.Credit:Pat Scala/Getty
That’s too harsh. Rugby league’s a tough game to lead, especially with 16 clubs, two states and a ruthless media whacking you daily like a pinata. Cricket seems a breeze in comparison.
His time in rugby league was up the moment V’landys became chairman with the axe falling a little later than expected as the game struggled for survival amid the early weeks of the pandemic.
In cricket, though, Greenberg has already established himself as a bit of a gun. The players feel fortunate having him in their corner and warmed to him instantly.
Greenberg’s first order of business when he took on the job was to sort out their cut from Amazon Prime documentary The Test.
In his first email to the players, he introduced himself and then casually informed them they would each receive a payment of $81,000 in the next pay cycle, no matter how much time they’d spent on-screen.
When coach Justin Langer heard the news, he hit the roof. He’d only received $40,000 — and he was the star of the show!
Since then, Greenberg has taken the lead in getting stranded IPL players out of India as the Delta variant ripped through the country, negotiated a pay rise for WBBL players, and already started chipping away at CA about a greater share of revenue when the current collective bargaining agreement ends in July next year.
In his previous life as NRL chief executive, he was often accused of being too close to the game’s superstars.
He wrote a reference for Greg Inglis as he faced drink-driving charges and infamously gifted Barb Smith a ring when her husband, Cameron, became the first player to reach 400 NRL matches.
Todd Greenberg commemorates Cameron Smith’s 400th NRL game in 2019.Credit:NRL Photos
From the conversations I’ve had, though, nobody in cricket considers him a jock sniffer. Rather, they accept him as someone who appreciates the players are the true stars of the show.
What they mostly appreciate is an administrator not afraid to speak publicly, to back them, something Hockley almost appears scared to do.
Greenberg is contracted for three years and has no designs on taking the top job just yet.
But with every passing crisis that befalls Australian cricket, it’s noticeable who has the strongest and most authoritative voice — and who does not.
Why now for Paine revelations?
That’s the lingering question about the Herald-Sun’s decision to press play on the Paine story just weeks before the start of the Ashes series.
There are all sorts of theories and arguments being tossed around in the background.
Various outlets, including some of News Corp’s other tabloid newspapers, have known about the issue for the best part of three years but decided not to go with it.
Some readers believe this is a sign of the cricket media protecting Paine. Rather, it’s about the law: it was impossible to publish without copies of the messages and/or infamous image.
Various media outlets knew about the Paine story for three years.Credit:AAP
Those close to the Cricket Tasmania staffer involved in the text message exchange reached out to this column earlier this week, insisting that she did not want the story published.
There is also speculation both electronic and hard copies have been leaked by a disgruntled former CA staffer.
“Ain’t no f…ing way you wore that!!! I’m not pressing the like button cause this is outrageous Kuz!” — LeBron James responds to Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma wearing a $2300 pink Raf Simons oversized-sleeve virgin wool jumper before the match against Charlotte. I know what I want for Christmas.
Bravo to the WTA for staying strong about Peng Shuai, the 35-year-old Chinese player for whom there is serious concern after she accused a high-ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party of sexually assaulting her. The IOC, which has one eye on next February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, says Shuai is OK. The WTA isn’t buying it.
If you didn’t know any better, you would’ve thought Wallabies coach Dave Rennie was diverting attention from his side’s loss to Wales when he whinged about the match officials, but he was bang on. Watching Australia continually lose is tough enough without having to endure the vagaries of the TMO FFS.
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Sam Kerr and partner Kristie Mewis, who will square off against each other when the Matildas play the first of two friendlies against the USA at Stadium Australia on Saturday afternoon. They say love is a battlefield. In this instance, it’s a football pitch.
It’s an even bigger weekend for …
Australian underdog George Kambosos who is looking for the “greatest upset in Australian boxing history” when he meets Teofimo Lopez for the WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF titles at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
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