Scott Carter happily hopped in a hot seat this week.
Carter is the new chairman of the New Zealand Rugby League, an organisation trying to break free of the perpetual tail spin it has been in for more years than the sport's fans care to remember.
Observers have often claimed that league couldn't go any lower, only to find that one year later the hole is even deeper.. League faces a tricky situation living in Australia's shadow, but years of inept administration have wrecked its credibility and helped playing numbers drop to below 20,000. The NZRL could barely tie its own shoelace at times, let alone take advantage of the high profile of the NRL and the Warriors and put the game on the front foot.
As a Herald colleague put it: "Rugby league has been run by a load of backyard Arfa Daleys", referring to the hapless wheeler dealer character from the old English television series Minder.
Sparc, the Government sports funding agency, stepped in last year and appointed four directors including Carter who has just been elected as chairman. Lucky guy.
He's hardly the stereotypical league figure, having been brought up in King Country and educated at an Auckland boarding school, being a former equestrian administrator, and now living in St Heliers. This is the brave new world of sports administration, and if ever a game needed a new broom from a faraway cupboard it is league. Carter is that broom.
Married, with two daughters, the 45-year-old former policeman runs his own security firm, Matrix.
He's taken on a tough new beat with a lot of hurdles.
Some say he is in for a tough ride, but his optimism was in fine order when the Herald called this week.
What's the gameplan?
Both the Anderson and Ineson reports talk about new structures to run one of the country's biggest sports. A new constitution and new board were essential - the next step is to appoint a chief executive, establish the seven zone boards and structures, the paid administrators ... we intend driving participation at every level of the game. It's a complete structural reform. I anticipate it will take three or four years although a lot of visible stuff should happen in the first year.
What will be the indicators of success?
The tangible things will be greater number of players, coaches, administrators, from club to national levels. Secondly, a national competition based on the zones plus national age grade competitions down to 13 years. The detail has got to be worked through which is the challenge for the office here. Also a greater visibility for the Kiwis. As a relative outsider to league I'm amazed at how little exposure the Kiwis get in New Zealand. They are what the whole sport should leverage off.
Good luck with that. Previous administrators have failed dismally although some left an impression that they were riding the gravy train.
Talking about that is not a path I want to go down. But as an outsider I always felt league didn't help itself and have a good image, yet it was a really good sport. It had a public image problem. Coming in as a director, the appeal was bringing in some pretty basic business practices which were lacking in league. So far, with the last board, there was a real sense of satisfaction that we had put out the fires and distanced the sport from its past and given it a fantastic platform to launch from.
What are your chances of success? Some people think you are mad for taking on what has been a cot case.
What's life without challenges. Most things can be achieved if good people set their hearts and minds to it. There may be disappointments, but I believe league is uniquely placed. The Sparc review, the really sharp scrutiny, was courageous, and absolutely necessary. I think league could be a role model for others. The relationship with Sparc could be a blue print for the reform of other sports. League is still one of the most popular sports in the country. I think we can really leverage off the World Cup win and the Kiwis brand. I think it is quite exciting and I know there is a lot of talent on this board.
Hows does a bloke go from chairing Eventing New Zealand to chairing the New Zealand Rugby League? Are you actually a league fan?
I am, but far more so since I came into the sport a year ago. It's an easy game to get hooked on. Like a lot of New Zealand boys I was brought up playing rugby. I got keen on a girl who rode horses which is how I was led into that sport. I was involved in reforming eventing and we were very lucky at the time having athletes like Mark Todd and Blythe Tait. I was also building the security company and decided to go to university to get a business qualification after I'd done what I had been asked to do with eventing. I was serving on various boards which led me back into sport. Having helped change eventing, the opportunity to assist league as an independent director was appealing.
Your proudest administration moment?
It was good to change eventing from a traditional committee type structure to a normal, modern sports structure. Managing the Mark Todd crisis along with some other good people was a highlight. Todd was involved in an alleged scandal in the UK - it was not a matter of doing anything more than dealing with the facts. I can still remember watching Mark come home through the airport gates with the bronze medal from the Sydney Olympics, watching the kids and the mums crowding him. I knew then that we had done something very, very right. In the absence of facts, we are not going to hang an athlete out to dry. Time told this was the correct course.
You walked a tough beat as a cop in South Auckland but didn't always beat the feat in Takapuna ...
I did six years as a police officer in Auckland. South Auckland was as tough as people say but it was the best place to learn. It was fantastic. I did a fair chunk on the North Shore. I helped re-establish the mounted police in New Zealand. The last mounted police officers were back in 1954 but nowadays there are general instructions for the protocols to ride horses on duty. I was the first one to start working on horseback. Others followed suit. I was mainly in patrol cars but when my sergeant gave me permission I'd do a day on mounted duty around Takapuna. There was a fantastic photo on the front page of the Herald the first day I did it in the late 1980s. It was my own horse - he was named Nightwatchman by coincidence.
Who was your childhood hero?
Probably my father. I remember speaking about that at his funeral last year. He was the quintessential King Country farmer, with black singlet, chainsaw and .303 rifle. But you tend to find your heroes wherever you look in New Zealand.
Who do you most admire?
That is an interesting question - who in history would you most like to spend a day with? The one that keeps coming to mind to me is Sir Edmund Hillary. He is so New Zealand and he literally climbed to the peak of physical endeavour.
When you were 13-years-old, what sport did you fancy yourself as a future star in?
I don't think there is any kid that played rugby who didn't fancy themselves as an All Black but it wasn't that tangible for me. From the day you are woken up in the middle of the night by your dad to watch the Springboks play on a black and white TV, it is kind of magical. I think sometimes that life unfolds and what you visualise as a dream is nothing more than a mirage and you find your true calling in other circles. Looking back, I can see I only joined the police because I failed to get in the Air Force as a fighter pilot because I grew too tall. I'd passed the exams but I couldn't fit in the bloody planes. In hindsight, the police was a much better career for me - being in the police really shows you what society can be like, both good and bad.
What's the best league game you've been to?
Unfortunately I had other commitments and couldn't go to the World Cup last year ... watching the Kiwis belt the Australians at North Harbour is the best game I've been to.
Fly fishing. My father and I used to really enjoy doing it together. I love going up the rivers near Taupo. I'd spend more time training for the half or full ironman if I had the time. Doing a full ironman is on my list of things to do although it would probably kill me. My greatest sporting success is surviving a couple of Taupo half ironmans.
Scott Carter happily hopped in a hot seat this week.