Paul Kent savages Peter FitzSimons over scathing NRL swipe

Andrew Reid
·5-min read
Pictured here, rugby league journalist Paul Kent and Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons.
Paul Kent has hit back after Peter FitzSimons' scathing criticism of the NRL's restart plans. Pic: Fox Sports/Ch9

Rugby league journalist Paul Kent has ripped into Peter FitzSimons after the former Wallaby went on the attack over the NRL's plans to resume competition next month.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys has confirmed the NRL will have the final say on a new competition structure as the game moves towards a season restart on May 28.

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With sporting competitions suspended around the country and the world, the NRL's bold plan to resume next month has divided opinion.

Former Wallaby and Sydney Morning Herald columnist FitzSimons took aim at the proposal in an open letter to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

In the column, FitzSimons referred to the notion of the NRL restarting when the rest of society was under strict isolation measures as "absolute madness" and urged the Premier to put a stop to it.

“If you are going to open things up, so be it. But giving the green light to rugby league while the rest of us will have been stuck on red at the traffic lights for the past two months seems to be taking an insane and unnecessary risk," FitzSimons wrote.

The forthright opinion led to a brutal response from Fox Sports' NRL 360 host Kent, who accused FitzSimons of never backing "a winning horse in any of his causes" and urged him to see the rationale behind the NRL's plan.

“Peter and I are friends, but I don’t support his stance on this,” Kent said.

“If you’re going to try and get behind a cause, you’ve got to give yourself a chance of winning. He just couldn’t back a winner.

“Poor old Peter, he campaigned to stop the barrier draw being on the opera house, and three days later it was on the Opera House.

“The fact he’s come out and said this, is probably a good thing for rugby league.”

Kent then went on to point out that European leagues are also formulating plans about resuming their seasons and urged FitzSimons to see the bigger picture.

“It’s an industry, and ironically enough the same as Peter FitzSimons writing his column is considered a necessary industry. He’s earning his money,” he continued.

“I don’t get the argument, Peter FitzSimons has been banging on with the same argument when the infection was 23 per cent, now it's a half a per cent, he's still banging on. Things have changed.

“The players will have a dirty zone, they will be tested three times a day, I can’t see why they want rugby league to stop playing. The Bundesliga is hoping to resume May 9, La Liga the same.”

Details of NRL season still need to be ironed out

After weeks of negotiations, television broadcasters Channel Nine and Foxtel are still yet to come to an agreement with the NRL about the structure and length of the new season.

However, V'landys told Triple M on Saturday the NRL would make the ultimate decision after taking their views into account out of respect.

"The decision on the competition structure is entirely the NRL's, however, when you have two important partners to provide 70-80 per cent of your revenue, you certainly have to engage with them and you have to try and satisfy them as much as you can," V'landys said.

"It's not only for now, it's well into the future.

"They'll be our prime partners and as a good partner, you sit down and you listen to them.

"But ultimately, the decision rests with the NRL and we'll make that decision in consultation with the players and the clubs."

It's understood the season will consist of more than 17 rounds, with Nine preferring a shorter season to avoid a clash with the T20 World Cup at the end of the year.

However, Cricket Australia have indicated the fate of the tournament may not be known until August.

Publicly, negotiations have appeared difficult as Nine released a statement calling the NRL's restart date of May 28 "premature", a day before agreeing to recognise the proposed date.

V'landys fired back on Channel Nine's Today Show, calling out the "alarmist rhetoric" on Friday morning, but on Saturday he attempted to soothe the public conversation.

"To be fair to (Nine CEO) Hugh (Marks), and he has coped some unwarranted criticism," V'landys said.

V’landys has faith in Channel Nine partnership

"He always respects that we make the final decision.

"He'll accept what decision we make no problem at all. Channel Nine will telecast any decision we make.

"But as a broadcast partner and a vital component of our game, you have to respect their views and you have to take their views into account.

"They're running a pretty serious commercial operation. Their revenues are significantly down because of the virus.

"A good partner helps another partner at that time. We're giving the respect to the broadcast partners.

"But, the time has come to make a decision. We've had various meetings, we've listened.

"The meetings have all been held in very good faith, in high spirits.

"There's never been an argument. So I don't think there'll be a problem in any decision that the NRL makes.

"The broadcasters will be there and ready and willing to go."

Funding for the 2020 NRL season is also yet to be sorted between broadcasters.

That is a significant agreement to reach as clubs wait for confirmation of their grants - and players their wages - ahead of a return to training on May 4.

with AAP