Peter the Great the Short
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“Peter the Great, that’d be a good ironic nickname,” went the train of thought. “Oh but Peter the Great was tall… yep, 2.03m… wait, how tall is V’Landys? Is he really tall or really short? There was a Peppin the Short… oh, turns out no one knows if he was really short or not. Interesting!”
Note: the mechanics of my brain are not on trial here. But this train of thought lead to this profile of Peter the Great the Short from 2019, which I somehow missed at the time.
It is full of gems:
Since we're on the subject, I ask V'landys his height. "It depends if I've got heels," he says. "But I'm about five nine [175 centimetres]." I look at him sceptically. "So I'm not actually short1," he continues. "But I've got very short legs, right? A normal person, it's 51 per cent legs, 49 per cent body. I'm the other way around. I'm 49 per cent legs, 51 per cent body."
What an incredibly normal answer to give. The next paragraph:
That may at least partly explain the extravagant length of V'landys' trousers. So much material is bunched around his ankles that you could be forgiven for thinking he picked up the wrong pair from the drycleaner. In the racing world, where sartorial style matters, V'landys is known for his almost permanently rumpled appearance. A leading sports writer last year had a good-natured dig at him for wearing $200 suits, ill-fitting shirts and cheap ties. When I mention the article, V'landys adopts a mildly aggrieved tone. "They're definitely not $200 suits, I can guarantee you that," he says. "I do get 'em on sale, I don't deny it. But they're pretty decent suits, so he got that one wrong.
The entrée is Alaskan crab ravioli with grilled prawns and champagne chervil cream. Or, if that doesn't appeal, Oriental five-spiced Muscovy duck breast salad with pawpaw and ginger dressing. V'landys has neither dish. He prefers plain food – he's allergic to onions and garlic – and is holding out for the bowls of chips he knows are on the way. He loves chips. "It's the Wollongong in me," he says.
Compare and discuss: Al Michaels has never eaten a vegetable.
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I apologise to Jane Cadzow for extensive block quoting - hang on, sorry, his own wife called him a “slum lord”! That's an actual quote! - but there’s details in here that are relevant for general mockery of our not very superior superiors, as well as understanding why the rugby league coverage has been so fawning, which is the source of approximately three-fifths of my dislike of the man.
There are three items of note to that end.
But those who deal with him say he still has a highly combative personality. "In meetings, if he doesn't like what's being said, he'll just talk over the top of people," says one person. "He's the classic bullied kid who became a bully," says another.
On a recent Saturday, I find myself sitting next to V'landys at a sumptuously laid table in a glass-fronted room overlooking the winning post at Royal Randwick. Like the bank officer, her partner and about 80 others, I have cracked an invitation to the Racing NSW lunch. V'landys holds these lavish events regularly, using them to bring together friends and associates in business, politics, sport, the arts and the media – he is a networker par excellence – along with a few individuals he thinks deserve a day out or to whom he feels he owes a favour. He is an ebullient host, full of jokes and speedily delivered anecdotes. Veuve Clicquot and various fine wines flow freely but V'landys drinks Pepsi Max. A can sits in front of him on the white linen cloth. To my left is Ben English, editor of The Daily Telegraph.
V'landys' media strategy is said to be two-pronged: he wines and dines media executives, and he hectors racing reporters. To me, he denies that he oversteps the mark. "We tell 'em what we'd like 'em to write, which is what the readers want to read," he says. Race previews and so on. "But what they write is up to them."
It's what you would have expected - or probably already knew - but it's good to see it in print from someone who presumably lacks my specific halberd to grind.
The problem with singularly using bullying as the stick, and a fancy lunch as the carrot, is that if you refuse to sell out, ignore the rudeness and stick to your guns, he doesn't have a whole lot left in the kit bag. The broadcasters, the RLPA, the ABC and the NSW government have used this to their advantage.
V’Landys can terrorise licencees in the racing industry by threatening their livelihoods but he doesn't have that power in rugby league - quite the opposite with the NRL clubs, in fact - and so V’Landys tends to end up giving in, as it is better to be seen as Getting Things Done. The paper gives it a different, more polished spin, because journalists are cheaper even than politicians and have no issues being derelict in their duty to hold those in power to some sort of accountability2, but if you compare the bluster to the results of those lost battles, it's difficult to draw any other conclusions. Without that, and ignoring the pat about being a Greek kid from Illawarra, all that’s left is a sweaty man in a bad suit.
The bullying, the dinners, the psychotic focus on image control through the media and cutting funding from the state bodies to give to the NRL clubs to shore up his base, that all sounds familiar. As I noted in 2020, “rugby league media’s main takeaway from watching world events of the last five years is that a strong man with a penchant for action, or at least being seen as imposing his will, and no respect for consultation is a good thing.”
Putting aside the wafting notes of proto-fascism in what is still ostensibly a democracy, and the distinct lack of direct accountability, it begs the question why anyone of merit with a basic sense of manners would want to work for the guy. Following that line of reasoning, it follows that the rugby league establishment fills not with people who have ideas that they want to pursue without being talked over, but instead with ctenophores, like Abdo and Annesley, who are happy to say whatever to receive the paycheque and not have to find a job in an industry with ethical responsibilities, expectations of performance and common courtesy.
Running the ARLC is not as complicated as running a national economy, so I don’t think its time to man the panic stations over a potential brain drain3 (compare and discuss: resignations at the FIA). Rugby league has survived dumber and more arrogant leadership and will again.
We’re far enough into the V’Landys era to know what it is. He’s delivered a new team, record “profits” and the purchase of a third hotel (touted, exasperatingly, as a “real estate bonanza” - for whom? Has this guy not heard of ETFs?), and so this is all, literally, old news. Nonetheless, it’s worth reiterating that if something stinks, it’s probably because something’s rotten.
Literally posted 30 minutes after the last newsletter: Morea Morea injury update
Speaking of, and we may have all forgotten about this by the time this newsletter goes out, but people getting upset at reports that the Broncos might try to sign TPJ in six months’ time, even though it would be largely impossible under the current cap rules, as if it is a done deal is the definition of off-season content.
Kezie Apps is going to the Western Clydesdales to join Leianne Tufuga, Shenae Ciesiolka and Ali Brigginshaw. So while the men’s team looks like it will lack firepower to compete in their second year in the league, the women’s team is going to be competitive immediately. Without a full roster, it’s hard to judge and the Dales don’t seem as stacked as Wynnum or Burleigh but they should be in the second tier of contenders, depending on the forward pack they assemble.
Explainer: NRL general play kick spray charts from our friends at Rugby League Eye Test. Looks awesome.
Not rugby league: the Melbourne Rebels are broke. In the last couple of years, that's two top flight English union clubs and one Australian off the top of my head. Even the Newcastle Thunder managed to keep going4. Seems like the union business model is fundamentally broken and I think it's due to a lack of efficiency. Think of how many units of entertainment are created by a 13 player rugby league side with a 4 player bench versus a 15 player union side with an 8 player bench. There's too many loafers in union not producing enough fun times, and payrolls need to be slashed by approximately 35% to make it viable. They should also try doing more with less by restricting possession to say six tackles per set.
Then: Queensland club reportedly in the the mix for rugby star, which I initially read as Jordan Pereira, who I would take as a surer bet than a union convert.
There are two takeaways from Letterman joking that he was buying South Sydney: 1) The Grand Old Club have the same pull as a fourth division Welsh soccer team, which is great considering Souths’ main claim to any kind of relevance was being kicked out of the comp 25 years ago, and 2) a lot of people don't seem to know what satire or a hoax is, having confused these concepts with an ordinary joke.
Tyson Smoothy extends to 2025. Where Paix is going to land?
Brenko Lee reportedly finds new club after release from Dolphins. Its Easts Tigers. This is what we call a Corey Thompson situation.
Not Queensland: Introducing our new Ecostrad mascot and you could name it. Sure. The Dolphins didn’t go for Phineas O’Phin, which I think was a mistake, but Hull could definitely have Heaty McRadiatorface or Ceramicus.
There are some clubs missing, either because they don’t have online stores, aren’t offering memberships this year or had met technical difficulties when I looked. Having had an eye on this for a few years now, it’s funny watching clubs get their merch offering organised and then let it slip off their radar, something breaks and then they belatedly remember it and get organised again.
In the 1997 World Club Championship, watching Adelaide, Canberra and Canterbury eat shit at the hands of Leeds, London and Wigan respectively is almost as thrilling as watching Gorden Tallis land three right hooks on Terry O’Connor before the Englishman had realised what was happening (5m47s, you sociopath) and got some of his own back, or the Sky Sports team naming Shaun [sic] Webcke to the bench, or prime Kevin Walters and young Darren Lockyer in action.
I’m 175cm and I wouldn’t describe myself as short, mostly because very few men describe themselves as short, irrespective of their height, but the stats are hard to go past. That said, people are more likely to give me shit about being balding. Still, if I felt I had to ring Ashley Martin, I’d self-harm. That’s my turning point.
‘Outgoing Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter Beattie is blithely unconcerned when I mention to him that some people I have interviewed maintain that the Telegraph, in particular, dances to V'landys' tune. "My response to that is, 'Whoopy doo!' " Beattie says. "If he's got News in his pocket, is that a bad thing for us? Even if it is true, where's the downside for rugby league?"‘
That explains a fair bit if I’m honest. “My response to that is, ‘Whoopy doo!’” is a patently insane thing to say.
If nothing else, that would require brains being present in the first place.
Although they just lost 114-10 in the 1895 Cup to York, so that's not encouraging for the new ownership.