The Bulldogs have revealed the true extent of their salary cap crisis. An uncertain journey over the next few years awaits. The person leading them out of troubled waters is recently elected chair Lynne Anderson, the wife of premiership-winning player and coach Chris Anderson and the daughter of the late patriarch, Peter “Bullfrog” Moore. In a wide-ranging interview, she talks about what she learned from her father and how she intends to make “The Family Club” great again.
Youre 90 days into the job. Is the club in a better or worse state than you imagined?
We knew potentially what we were walking into. It was clear that there were things we needed to fix. But its not pretty. Quite frankly, they [the previous board] gambled on a higher salary cap. They threw the dice and they lost and were all picking up the pieces. Its been said that were shopping players. We are not. We wont do that again. I dont like the fact they gambled. I dont like the fact that there was a lack of process. Because it was very clear that what they were doing was just wrong.
At the same time, Im looking at it and thinking, “Weve been here before”. I must say theres a real level of confidence and calmness because in my time in the game, and Chris time, weve come across these situations before. I look at when Dad first came in at Canterbury [in the late 1960s]. I was only 11 or 12 but I still remember the angst and the pain, the catchcries that he and [former captain-coach] Kevin Ryan were putting out.
The worst thing that could happen to a junior was to be born in the Canterbury district because they were being ignored. The club wasnt looking after its juniors. I spoke to Kevin Ryan last week at the players reunion and he said the similarities between then and now are stark. Its pretty obvious we are back in that same place. When Chris first started coaching, the two before him were Warren Ryan and Phil Gould and players left to play for them. Chris and Dad sat down and worked a way out. We won the comp in 1995. The other time I remember was the Super League era. And we got through that. Yes, there are things we have to fix — but it just doesnt scare me because we know the way out. Were a good club with our backs to the wall. Thats one thing we do well.
Each time Ive spoken to you, youve made subtle reference to your father. What do you remember about him the most?
I remember him leaving me at the cricket ground! That was folklore and it was true. When I was a child, I just loved the footy. He would take me to Belmore and park me on the steps. We lost one day at the SCG and I was there, waiting and waiting. I was 12. His worst nightmare happened: his mother-in-law found me. Dad was just totally dedicated to the club. He was always one step ahead and I hope that I can tap into that. He was a leader, an innovator …
And ruthless from all reports. Rat cunning.
Are you a chip off the old block?
IAnd Ive been told in a few negotiations thats the case. I dont know if you call that rat cunning but I am competitive. Im the eldest of nine children. Dad taught me two things: always treat the fans with respect, theyre not stupid; and never to forget how important the club is to the community.
How important was it to him?
It was everything to him, thats why Super League cut him to the bone. “Arko” [former ARL chairman Ken Arthurson] and Dad were always still strong but Dad was painted as the bad guy. He thought joining Super League was the right thing for Canterbury.
When the recent board elections were on, your fathers role during Super League came in the background a few times. People have long memories.
I know. And people are still wrong. He did what was right for the club and as it turned out he was right. Look at it now. As much as Dad was about the family club, the players always came first. Everything revolved around them. The players back then werent getting paid what they were worth.
Tell us about securing a major sponsorship for the club with Hyundai — when you werent even working for it.
The Bulldogs had lost their major sponsor and I asked Dad what he was doing about it. He said, “Go and find me one”. So I did. I love research and stats. I found that even though we were the most successful club in the last 25 years, the attendances were trending down. You just had to walk down our main street to see there had been a significant demographic shift; cultures that hadnt grown up with rugby league. I thought, “Lets embrace that”. Thats what started our multicultural days. Then we needed a sponsor. The Koreans at that stage provided the most immigrants to our area. I fluked an article in the Fin Review that Hyundai were coming to Australia. We got in front of them and they loved the club. They were a foreign brand, nobody even knew how to say the name, they wanted to get into the local psyche.
What did Bullfrog say?[Laughs] I started working for the club a few weeks later. We started the multicultural days. In 1993, we had a sell-out crowd and had to shut the gates at Belmore. Women were next. I did a survey of attendees at our games: 22 per cent were female. Thats not a “family club”. I said, “Dad, what are you doing?” Game day wasnt female friendly. If its a Sunday and my husband wants to go to the footy with the three kids, I wasnt going to be happy. I got rid of the carpark for directors and put in free rides, face painting, a wine bar. Then we sponsored netball in the district. In typical post-grad style, I thought I knew it all. But theres still no doubt in my head theres an instinct that you either have or you dont. And Dad had it. I once told him I thought he was the best marketer I knew. He thought I was swearing at him. He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Youve branded us the family club, youve made it real because you live it.”
I feel like its patronising to constantly refer to you as the “daughter of Bullfrog” or the “wife of Chris Anderson".
Thats all right. Im not offended. Ive learned by osmosis.
A family can often be fractured. Since the election, have you healed any wounds?
Weve started that already with the junior league, the referees association. Were working closely with our ambassadors club.
What about former Leagues Club chairman George Peponis and football club chairman Ray Dib?
Absolutely. That started with George straight away, thats not a problem. Were in a competitive business. There are passions in this club, which is a double-edged sword. We all went hard at it in the election. But it ended election day as far as I am concerned.
But it got quite dirty during the election.
We saw things during the course of the election … People forget Ive been in the business for a while. Maybe I do have more rat cunning than Im admitting. We needed a changing of the guard. It doesnt bother me. Sometimes they are more than flesh wounds but Id forgotten about it until you mentioned it now.
In your role as chief executive of the Australian Paralympic Committee, you endorsed same-sex marriage in the blink of an eye. The AOC did not. Why?
Its in our DNA to be inclusive. [Paralympic gold medallist] Kurt Fearnley has a beautiful line: “Our people know the natural pain of exclusion. Why would we want to inflict that on anyone?” Hes the most beautiful man I know.
How did you get that role at the APC?
Id burnt myself out in my last position and I was taking gardening leave, which was much needed. I didnt want to retire but Ill be blunt: I was told my age and gender would work against me getting another job.
Who told you that?
I wont say. Then this role came up. They are as close to me as the Bulldogs.
Id worked too hard. We all do that.
Are you a workaholic?
Absolutely. And I thrive on it.
Was your Dad?
Absolutely. He worked incredible hours.
What about Chris?
No. [Laughs] Hes more efficient than me. He just knows what he wants.
He was door knocking during the election.
Chris Anderson door knocking on the south coast. Who wouldve imagined that?
Final message for the Bulldogs family?
First, I want to say Ive been so impressed with Hilly [chief executive Andrew Hill] and Deano [coach Dean Pay]. Heres two guys who have got their first roles at the pinnacle of their careers and are only now finding out the true story of what theyre in for. Neither of them has shirked it. To the fans, I would say were rolling up our sleeves, we have a plan because weve been here before. We will get out of it.
Chief Sports Writer, The Sydney Morning Herald
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter