NRL bosses pleased with players for first scandal-free offseason in years




ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie has hailed the NRL's scandal-free summer, describing off-field behaviour as the key to growing crowds and the game.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 24:  Mitchell Pearce of the Knights kicks during a NRL trial match between the Newcastle Knights and the Parramatta Eels at Maitland No 1 Showground on February 24, 2018 in Newcastle, Australia.  (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Mitchell Pearce of the Knights kicks during a NRL trial match between the Newcastle Knights and the Parramatta Eels at Maitland No 1 Showground in Newcastle.

Source: Getty

Brisbane and St George Illawarra will kick off the premiership race on Thursday night following the first off-season in recent memory free of stories of player misbehaviour and ugly headlines tarnishing the game's image.

The stoush between the clubs and the ARLC over constitutional reform was the only controversy to mar the break and Beattie vowed to resolve that impasse this month.

Total NRL attendance was down by two per cent last year and Beattie pointed out they had remained fairly constant during the past decade.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has long argued the redevelopment of ANZ, Allianz and Parramatta stadiums as key to attracting more fans through the gate.

Travel, poor facilities and inflated food and beverage prices are often cited by fans as reasons for staying home instead of attending games.

Beattie said players keeping their noses clean was also vital to improving the game's reputation and keeping turnstiles clicking over.

"It's absolutely crucial. If we're going to attract more and more fans to the game, on-field behaviour and off-field behaviour have to be fantastic," Beattie said.

"But let's be positive about this and I want to talk up the game. I think we need to do more of that and I urge all our fans to talk up the game.

"You've got some great ambassadors - Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, the list goes on. JT (Johnathan Thurston), these are great ambassadors for the game and they're the sort of people that are role models."

Beattie said he would meet Melbourne chairman Bart Campbell in a bid to convince him to vote for constitutional change at the March 12 vote.

The vote was postponed last month when it was clear the Storm, Gold Coast and Canterbury would shoot down the overhauls of the independent commission, which are designed to give clubs and the state bodies spots on the board for the first time.

Beattie vowed to cease the in-fighting between Rugby League Central and the clubs, which forced his predecessor John Grant out of his job.

"I want to bring a fresh start to the commission and the clubs. There's been a lot of animosity over a long period of time and I want to end that," Beattie said.

"We'll resolve (the constitutional reform) one way or another and we'll either make the old constitution work or a new one.

"I've spoken to the Titans, I'm about to talk to the Bulldogs and I'll talk to Melbourne on Monday. Hopefully by March 12 we can resolve something."

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