Banker David Smith named new ARL CEO
2013 NRL draw unveiledBRAD WALTER
Flush with cash from the new broadcast deal, the ARL Commission has appointed departing Lloyds Bank chief executive David Smith as the game's new CEO.
It is understood staff at League Central were advised that Smith, a Welshman, would be their new boss at a meeting on Friday morning ahead of the release of the NRL draw for next season.
ARL Commission chairman John Grant welcomed Smith as the right man to lead rugby league forward.
Grant said the ARLC made no apologies for the time it took to find a replacement for former boss David Gallop, who departed in June.
"This is a person who knows business, who knows how to lead, who loves sport, who is culturally suited to our game and who has a very strong sense of community," Grant said.
"We've spent a lot of time talking with Dave and I can tell you that we are certain he will do a fantastic job for our game."
Smith said he was very excited about taking on the role.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to be a part of the rugby league family," he said on Friday.
"I feel a real sense of excitement and duty in taking on the chief executive role at such an exciting point for the game and the NRL.
"It's a chance to make a real difference at a time when rugby league is looking to grow to a new level.
"The role has everything I could want and I am really looking forward to getting started.
"I think I have got the best job in Australia.
"This is a wonderful opportunity. It is an honour and a privilege."
Shane Mattiske will continue as the interim ARLC chief executive until Smith moves into his new role in February.
It is understood the ARLC wanted a chief executive with a financial background to manage the new future fund being established from the $1 billion coming into the game from the broadcast and media rights deal.
Smith does not have a background in rugby league - but has played rugby union - boasts an impressive résumé in the banking industry, having served as HBOS Australia CEO since March 2009.
He also served in the British Army's counter-terrorism unit.
He announced on Wednesday that he was leaving Lloyd's "to pursue other opportunities".
However, Smith may not start with the NRL until next year as Lloyd's said he was staying on for several months to help the leadership transition.
Before his most recent job, he was a director of Bank of Scotland Treasury and a member of the UK Treasury Executive Committee.
He has an engineering background and began his career in London with Morgan Grenfell & Co in 1987.
Smith has subsequently held a number of senior management positions in Deutsche Bank, UBS and HBOS. He has worked for HBOS for 11 years in investment.
The announcement will be made in conjunction with the 2013 draw and rounds off a momentous week for the code, with the commission making the controversial decision to outlaw the shoulder charge on Wednesday.
The Warriors will officially be hosting Sonny Bill Williams in their first home game of 2013.
The Warriors will clash with the Roosters at Eden Park on March 16, a week after they open their campaign under new coach Matt Elliott at Parramatta Stadium, against the Eels, in round round one.
A Monday night game against the Cowboys at Mt Smart Stadium in round four, on April 1, looms as another interesting early round feature, while the Warriors will once again travel to Melbourne to play the Storm on Anzac Day, in round seven, in what is now an annual feature of the NRL calendar.
The Warriors home clash against the Bulldogs on May 11 is yet to be listed with a venue. Warriors officials have said that the game is likely to be played outside Auckland - meaning Wellington's WestpacTrust Stadium, Christchurch's AMI Stadium and Hamilton's Waikato Stadium could be in line for NRL footy this year.
The NRL will kick off with a clash between the Roosters and Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on March 7 - a match that will mark former All Black Williams' first game back in the NRL after controversially walking out on the Bulldogs for rugby in 2008.
Canterbury fans will have to wait until round 15 for Sonny Bill Williams to return to ANZ Stadium against the club he walked out on in 2008. Williams, whose return to the NRL next season is expected to draw big crowds wherever he plays with Sydney Roosters, will also face his former club in round six at Allianz Stadium.
The Bulldogs-Roosters clashes are two of the highlights of the 2013 draw to be officially announced this afternoon. Channel Nine is also banking on Williams being fit for the season opener against South Sydney at Allianz Stadium on Thursday, March 7.
Other round one matches include:
Brisbane v Manly at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, March 8;
Parramatta v Warriors at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday, March 9, and;
Melbourne v St George Illawarra at AAMI Park on Sunday, March 10.
The Storm will also host a grand final replay against the Bulldogs in round three.
The draw, the first the NRL has released for the opening 20 rounds, features 12 Sunday night matches. Among them are Manly v Newcastle at Brookvale Oval in round two and Canberra v St George Illawarra at Canberra Stadium in round three.
With the Broncos playing Manly in the opening round, their derby match against the Cowboys that has traditionally opened the season in Queensland will be played in round six.
Another potential grudge match, Wests Tigers' first clash with Cronulla since the Sharks poached Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington, will be played in round nine. Penrith and Gold Coast travel to Darwin in round 17.
- Sydney Morning Herald and AAP