In the court of public opinion, a year can often feel like a decade.
Don’t believe me? Well, if you are able to sit down for a meeting with the almighty Peter V’landys, then I am sure he would currently concur with my contention.
Since earning the adulation of the vast majority of Rugby League supporters following the sky-rocketing success of his Project Apollo return to play plan just over 12-months ago, all of the capital that the Racing industry guru has earnt has seemingly been spent in just over a fortnight.
After the game’s club-based showpiece event ‘Magic Round’ was reduced to what many perceived to be a ‘tiggy touchwood’ game of musical chairs set to a particularly pitiful soundtrack, these same fans that fawned over V’landys have turned quicker than opposition wingers chasing Josh Addo-Carr’s heels.
With the 59-year-old administrator anointed as the soul saviour of the game following the May 28 re-start date last season, has too much praise been placed at V’landys’ tailor-made shoes?
According to veteran scribe Danny Weidler, some of the game’s most influential players believe this to be the case.
In a piece for The Sydney Morning Herald on Monday, Weidler reported that an unidentified group of the game’s stars would be using their opportunity to get together in Origins camps to plot the downfall of the man that was once dubbed ‘Simply V’best’.
Although the names of those that spoke to Weidler have been kept under wraps, their reported concerns about a lack of consultation from the top down before implementing rule changes that many in the footballing fraternity believe have torn at the fabric of the game has created a sizeable rift.
Despite this friction from the playing faction, V’landys still has support in high places.
On Fox League’s appropriately named Sunday night wrap-up program, ‘Big League Wrap’, the ever-opinionated James Hooper let fly at these claims of a coup.
Hooper's getting fired up 👀 pic.twitter.com/aKsRzV8xVc
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) May 30, 2021
Now, it is all well and good to label these supposed moves as “garbage”, but whether or not shots are to be fired from behind Maroon and Blue representative lines, it is apparent that those that put their bodies on the line have had enough.
As reported in The Daily Telegraph on Monday morning, Sea Eagles playmaker and Rugby League Players Association General President, Daly Cherry-Evans is of the view that the game as a whole is at a crossroads.
With the first State of Origin clash now under a fortnight away from kicking off, the Manly skipper pleaded for V’landys to alleviate the ambiguity surrounding what can and can’t be done on the field.
“He [V’landys] has always said he is the players’ man, right now I would like to see Peter be that man for us,” Cherry-Evans said.
As the players were not consulted before the goalposts were moved ahead of Round 10, Cherry-Evans is of the belief that if a lack of communication is what brought the game to its knees, then opening dialogue between the men in studded boots and those in pinstriped suits is what could save it.
“It’s a hypothetical, but you’d like to think if everyone in the game — all parties, all shareholders were consulted on it — you’d think the result and the decisions that were made, everyone would have at least agreed on them or knew they were coming,” the 32-year-old said.
“Unfortunately, no one was involved, not everyone likes it, and now our game gets negative press. I hate it when our game gets negative press.
“I keep harping on it — we’ve got such a good project. Rugby league is a great game. We’re about to go into the pinnacle of the sport in Origin and we’re talking about if our product is right or not.
“I am worried about it. I really hope with what’s arguably our biggest spectacle that we can see it celebrated for what it is.”
Despite Cherry-Evans’ stance, his Origin coach from last season, Wayne Bennett, is at odds with his former on-field mouthpiece.
″When it comes to safety, there is no need to consult. If a pedestrian is going to be hit by a car, you stop it from happening now. You don’t wait until they’ve been hit and then try to do something,” the master coach said recently.
It is clear that V’landys’ moves to clean up the game were made for the long-term benefit of each and every player that laces their boots and crosses the white line each weekend, but if these same players believe they are out in the cold at the minute, can they actually be deemed successful?
In the ‘bigger picture’ view of V’landys, this crackdown was created as a means of making the code more appealing to the next generation of star’s parents.
However, as another renowned Rugby League pedagogue has claimed this week, these moves to cosy up with concerned mothers and fathers are apparently unnecessary.
Roy Masters reported on Monday for The Sydney Morning Herald that although Peter V’landys has previously claimed that participation levels at the game’s grassroots have fallen away, this is actually a falsehood, with the former Wests and Dragons coach proving that they have actually risen by 4.31 per cent in New South Wales on a year-to-date level since 2019.
Masters also claimed that the levels of junior participation from female leaguers is through the roof – another blow to the quick talking V’landys stance.
So, if these numbers can be taken for red, why has the game undergone a contentious face lift in the space of just a fortnight?
According to Weidler, despite the fact that he may have lost face with the players, as well as numerous supporters, this snap reaction is not uncommon for the Keira Boys High School graduate.
‘V’landys has a crash or crash through approach to management.’ Weidler wrote.
‘He won’t change course and once he thinks he is doing the right thing, he will back himself to the end.’
Now, this same approach may have won the brash businessman a list of disciples the length of Randwick straight last year, but it is this perceived ‘pigheaded’ stance that has these same followers howling rather than championing the administrator’s name.
It all seems an eon ago that shirts bearing worse of praise for V’landys sold like proverbial hot cakes.
— League Tees (@LeagueTees) June 1, 2020
In spite of the fact that many are bemoaning the alterations to how the game is adjudicated, what cannot be argued is that fact that it will have a net positive affect.
Some punters and pundits may feel that the current crop of athletes scattered across the league’s 16-teams must adapt with the changes rather than simply pine for ‘the good old days’.
Some may also argue the point that if the game wasn’t broken, why did it need fixing?
But if we are losing players of Jake Friend’s calibre for good, and his former teammate Boyd Cordner is still sidelined, obviously the mechanics of the game needed alterations.
Changing rules on the fly was unlikely to have been Peter V’landys optimum method of implementation but asking players prone to lazy shots and swinging arms to be accountable for their limbs and the impact they have is not something that should see any babies flow out with the muddied bath water.
With about as many differing views as Cameron Smith played games, finding a harmonious standpoint seems as unlikely as Trent Barrett holding the Provan-Summons trophy aloft this September, but if public opinion on a man that is never shy to garner it has turned in just 12-months, lets wait a few more before we pick up the pitchforks and charge city hall.
You may not like Peter V’landys, that’s alright, there are plenty south of the Murray River that don’t.
You may side with the players, that too is fine, as they definitely needed to be involved in the initial discussion.
You may even despise the game in its current guise, but if you have an issue with those at the top end of town protecting the player’s welfare, then Rugby League may no longer be the game for you, because as has already been said, Peter V’landys is unlikely to change his course of action.