MELBOURNE (Reuters) - New Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter Beattie has confessed to drawing a “mental blank” after being unable to identify 2016 NRL championship winners Cronulla as the ‘Hawks,’ ‘Seagulls’ or ‘Sharks’.
Beattie, the former premier of northeastern Queensland state and the head of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Corporation, was stumped when interviewed by prominent rugby league pundit Phil Gould on the Nine Network on Monday.
Recalling a similar gaffe by Beattie’s predecessor John Grant, who mistakenly referenced the Sydney-based team as the “Cronulla Hawks” at a 2014 event, Gould asked Beattie: “The team that plays out of the Sutherland Shire — is it the Cronulla Hawks, the Cronulla Seagulls or the Cronulla Sharks?”
Self-described life-long rugby league fan Beattie replied: “I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have a bloody clue, but I’ll know next week.
“It’s got to be Cronulla of some kind.
“It’s too bloody hard Gus, that’s too difficult.”
His blunder came only days after he visited the Cronulla Sharks’ dressing room following their season-opening loss to the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville over the weekend.
Beattie was duly slammed on social media by rugby league fans before tweeting an explanation in which he blamed nerves and a busy work schedule.
“Yes I stuffed up the answer; just nervous in front of the great Phil Gould,” wrote the 65-year-old, who was appointed head of the sport’s national governing body last month.
“Yeah I’m human. I had a mental blank. The price of doing the NRL & the Commonwealth Games at the same time!!”
Australia has a history of appointing top rugby league executives who have struggled with basic facts about the game.
Former ARLC boss Grant also mistakenly referenced Sydney-based NRL team Manly as the ‘Seagulls’ rather than the ‘Sea Eagles’ in 2014.
Former NRL CEO David Smith, a Welsh banker, was unable to name the national Kangaroos captain, Cameron Smith, after his appointment in 2012.
Smith was also widely ridiculed when he misnamed the competition’s marquee player Ben Barba as Benji Barba at the 2013 season launch.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford