Some disgruntled NRL clubs are contemplating standing against the constitutional reform, creating fear among other teams that the two commission candidates elected on Thursday won't be given a chance to influence the future of the sport.
Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys (16 votes) and Sydney lawyer Glen Selikowitz (10 votes) won out over former Collingwood Magpies boss Gary Pert (6 votes) for the two club-appointed commission roles that were this month meant to be introduced as part of the reform agreed upon last year.
The problem is some clubs have been rethinking their position the past few months. It only takes two clubs to vote against the reform at the February 21 annual general meeting and it will all come crashing down.
The clubs now reconsidering their position believe certain club chairs made alterations to the reform document without consent of all 16 NRL clubs.
It is understood certain club chairs negotiated with the NSWRL and QRL on behalf of the clubs, reaching a position without the blessing of the clubs likely to oppose the notion of empowering the states.
One of the biggest gripes is a belief the changes put forward won't conserve the independence of the decision making in the sport.
"It takes away the independent function of the commission," one chair said.
"The two states have all the power which is very dangerous. That's not what we agreed to. We all supported constitutional reform, we all wanted to work together, but not at any cost."
ARL Commission chairman John Grant sent out an email to all clubs on Thursday, notifying them that the vote for constitutional reform would be a secret ballot.
The decision to make it a secret ballot has angered some clubs, who believe the outgoing chair is making it easier for clubs to veto the reform. However, Grant believes it’s the fairest method.
"The Commission has enthusiastically contributed to the governance review and consistently ensured every member is fully informed of the Commission’s thinking as it forms its view,” Grant said.
"Once each member has formed its final position, they have a right to express that in a vote as we all do when we elect our governments – privately and independently. Hence the secret ballot.
"Given the Commission has been advised that all members are supportive of the new constitution, there should be no concern at the ballot being secret."
It is believed the lack of support for Pert has also added to the frustrations of those sceptical chairs, who now believe the best interest of the game is being overlooked in favour of personal agendas.
The clubs were originally united on having two club-appointed commissioners introduced to the ARLC board, agreeing candidates with knowledge and experience in clubland would be the ideal nominees to represent them on the commission.
However Pert, who has the most experience at a football club of the three candidates, received the least votes and consequently raised alarm bells with certain clubs.
"I think it's disappointing a candidate with Gary's skillset and knowledge and success in clubland couldn’t get him on to our commission," one chair told NRL.com.
"I hope to think in the future he may well be considered as a candidate as an independent commissioner."
The clubs have fought for so long to have a seat at the table. Now that they have received an invitation, politics and self-interest threaten to have those seats taken away from them.
If just two clubs oppose the reform vote, the ARL Commission will fill two positions to fill the outgoing John Grant and Cathy Harris with independent directors, denying the clubs of the voice they've fought so hard to gain.