Cronk and Finch on the outer as Fox slash costs
For years Cooper Cronk has been positioned as the serious face of Fox Sports, but with the season about to kick off, there is no deal in place for one of the most articulate players in the game.
Cronk was a genuinely smart player and that comes across in his analysis. While he doesn’t have the outspoken views of a Paul Gallen, he certainly can be smooth in any situation. Within the corridors of Fox Sports, there were plenty who saw Cronk as a natural host, but they have opted for an all-female approach this year.
Deal or no deal: Cooper Cronk is yet tore-sign with Fox Sports.Credit:Getty
With negotiations ongoing for months without success, it will be interesting to see if Channel Nine, publishers of this masthead, are interested in Cronk. He could be sold as a TV talent who could work across a number of platforms and even outside sport. Channel Nine has programs such as 100% Footy and the Sunday Footy Show which might work for Cronk.
Cronk’s wife, Tara Rushton, heads the Fox football coverage, where network executives have in the past indicated they may also be looking to make cuts.
There is more news coming out of the Fox Sports bunker. Troubled star Brett Finch was a notable absentee from the Fox launch during the week. It wasn’t hard to discover why: his contract has not been renewed.
Fox had stuck by Finch through some difficult times. In particular, head of television Steve Crawley showed compassion towards him. In the end, the company decided they had to part ways.
There were incorrect reports last year that Finch had returned to rehab. He was being urged by friends to do so, but it didn’t happen. He was telling everyone at Fox he was fine. But it was an unusual performance on a Matty Johns podcast that raised concerns. The podcast is usually replayed many times, but that episode has been taken off the air.
Finch is widely loved and plenty are keen to offer their support. Crawley was one of Finch’s biggest supporters in his time at Fox, but told those close to him he had no choice but to let him go.
It has been a tough time for Fox Sports, which has been slashing costs after parent company Foxtel posted a loss of $417 million. Rugby host Nick McArdle and former Wallaby Drew Mitchell were let go in January, while the league, AFL, cricket and football departments are bracing for even more cuts.
Todd’s tour leaves NRL clubs seeing red, white and blue
This is the photo (below) that has angered club bosses and could haunt NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg for the rest of 2020.
Plenty have seen the image, and clubs are seeing red. Greenberg, quite reasonably, agreed to break with tradition and attend the World Club Challenge last weekend, even though the event is run by Super League. What surprised rival clubs was the way he became part of the Roosters touring party. Greenberg even sat next to Roosters supremo Nick Politis as they watched Warrington Wolves beat Sonny Bill Williams’ Toronto Wolfpack the night before the Roosters took on St Helens for the world title.
Todd Greenberg and Nick Politis.
It was hardly a good look for Greenberg, whose political antenna is not what it used to be. All he did was invite scepticism from fans, who already believe powerful clubs, such as the Roosters and Storm, are too close to head office.
It was especially dangerous considering many supporters are still seething about the ‘‘six again’’ ruling in last year’s grand final, which helped the Roosters to their second straight NRL title. I know how angry the fans are about it. I wrote a column pointing out the NRL admitted that the Roosters were the team who copped the majority of the bad calls, and got plenty of flak for it.
The belief among many NRL club powerbrokers is that Greenberg is cosying up to Politis because he is seen as one of the most powerful men in the game, a king-maker.
The irony is the Roosters don’t need any help. No club has a better front office or coaching staff. There is a reason they have been the best club for past decade: it is all driven by the man known as ‘‘Uncle Nick’’. Rest assured that every time the Roosters get a favourable call or judiciary decision this year, this photo will be resurrected.
‘‘I wouldn’t have thought that Nick has too much sway over me,’’ Greenberg said. ‘‘We have had plenty of arguments over the years. I sat between Nick and Trent [Robinson] at the [Toronto-Warrington] game. Whoever was playing, whether it be the Raiders or the Roosters, I would have been sitting with the club chairman as well.
‘‘I completely understand the concept that you are talking about, but I have complete regard for Nick, even though we have had disagreements over time.’’
It was only a few months ago that Greenberg raised eyebrows when he gave Cameron Smith’s wife, Barb, a diamond ring to celebrate Cameron’s 400th NRL game. Then he took Storm coach Craig Bellamy to Australia’s basketball match against the US in Melbourne. NRL clubs want to know how Greenberg can be seen as impartial when handing down sanctions to players at these powerbrokers’ clubs after he has spent the night with them at the footy or basketball.
It’s another reason rival clubs want to see an independent board set up to rule on off-field incidents.
The NRL boss was entitled to crow this week about the $30 million profit the game made last year, but he is yet to see a new contract and the longer it drags on the more people will speculate on his future. ‘‘My contract doesn’t expire until the end of the year, so I’m not worried about that,’’ Greenberg said.
Morris a must
The Roosters put on a sparkling season launch on Thursday night. The highlight was Cooper Cronk’s life membership. However, the main talk was not about the prospect of three straight NRL titles, instead it was all about the need to sign Cronulla centre Josh Morris. Club management believe they need him to get through the long season ahead.
Moses ditches Wehbe
With Parramatta considered a genuine chance of winning their first title in 34 years, Mitchell Moses is facing his biggest year in the top grade. And he’ll do it without the man who has guided him for much of his football career, mind coach Joe Wehbe.
He is also doing it with the backdrop of managing some complex relationships, including relative and agent Isaac Moses being investigated by the NRL. A number of leading players have fallen out with Isaac Moses and he and Wehbe have split, which relates to Mitchell Moses’ decision to go it alone when it comes to his game preparation.
The Eels five-eighth has been going through some changes in his football life and I asked him if that included Wehbe, whom he used to swear by.
‘‘I’ve gone away from all of that,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve got away from the mind coach and I feel like it has really bettered me as a player. What I thought worked, what I thought was good, wasn’t. Getting away from that has made me a better player.
‘‘I don’t want to rely on anyone else and, to be honest, I think that Brad [Eels coach Brad Arthur] has been the best thing for me. The way that he helped me last year made a huge help. It was a big decision to go it alone without the mind coach, but it has made a real difference to me and it’s time I owned everything that I do.’’
Wehbe is loved by those he works with. James Tedesco swears by him and credits him with so much of his ongoing success. Tedesco has sided with Wehbe in his dispute with Isaac Moses but, by all accounts, he and Mitchell Moses have decided to remain friends. They just won’t discuss Isaac Moses.
Time to leave, Man
Since the late 1990s, this column has supported Anthony ‘‘The Man’’ Mundine and through his time as a boxer he repeatedly told me he’d never be a fighter who went on too long. Sadly, after saying he would retire, he is now eyeing off another fight, this time with Michael Zerafa. Mundine wants to go out a winner.
Raw emotion: Mundine breaks down after beating Antwun Echols to claim his first world title in 2003.Credit:Craig Golding
Mundine is already idolised by so many sports stars. Having spent a week with the Indigenous side at last weekend’s All Stars on the Gold Coast, I can tell him his reputation is undiminished.
Mundine was a lone voice when it came to the Australian flag and anthem years ago as he campaigned for Indigenous rights, and now we see the likes of Latrell Mitchell talking about similar issues. I prefer to remember Mundine when he was in his prime, beating Danny Green or defeating Antwun Echols to take his first world title in 2003.
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