IT MIGHT have taken more than three years for the ARL Commission to come to fruition, but yesterday the newly-formed body showed that the long fight for the game's independence was worth it.
Just 12 days after officially being appointed to their roles, the eight commissioners agreed on one of the most significant changes to the season structure for years.
Almost as notable is the fact that the ARL Commission made the decision on Tuesday, and it did not leak out before NRL club chief executives were advised yesterday.
The McIntyre finals system had been the subject of ongoing controversy at the end of each season but under the NRL partnership committee, comprising three representatives each from News Ltd and the ARL, change had always been resisted.
With the ARL and News Ltd having one vote each, and no decision therefore able to be made unless both parties agreed, partnership committee meetings were often described as ''frustrating'' and ''a waste of time'' for those involved.
In contrast, the ARL Commission demonstrated after its inaugural board meeting that it would make progressive and decisive decisions for the good of the game - leadership traits likely to be appreciated even by those who don't agree.
The Herald reported on September 30 last year that the commission would not hesitate to dump the McIntyre finals format if the AFL system was considered better. After a recommendation from the competition committee set up by NRL chief executive David Gallop the commission did so.
''That is exactly they way it should work,'' ARL Commission chairman John Grant said.
''I think the process that the game went through to reach that decision was exactly the way we would like to be.
''After collaboration at the club level, the competition committee looked into it and made a recommendation to David's team, who then made a recommendation to the commission. It was discussed at the commission's meeting yesterday in a pretty wholesome way before we adopted the recommendation and then David communicated it back to the club CEOs today.''
Grant said he and the other seven commissioners - Gary Pemberton, Jeremy Sutcliffe, Catherine Harris, Wayne Pearce, Chris Sarra, Ian Elliot and Peter Gregg - were conscious of the fact the change was their first major decision since taking control of the game on February 10.
''We were pretty cognisant of that, for sure,'' he said. ''Timing is everything isn't it, because this has clearly been in the pipeline for a while but it is a great opportunity for the commission to be seen to be part of a process and doing the job it is going to be doing as the governing body of the game.''
Grant said he did not have a personal opinion about the McIntyre system before his appointment to the ARL Commission and only made up his mind after listening to the recommendations from Gallop and the competition committee, which includes Mal Meninga, Ricky Stuart, John Lang, Daniel Anderson, Andrew Ryan, Trent Barrett and NRL operations manager Nathan McGuirk.
''We are going to listen to rational, well-researched argument, and that's what this was,'' Grant said. ''It was an argument that took into account the views of all the stakeholders and we always said we would make a decision in the best interests of the game.''
Gallop said the change to the finals structure showed that the process in place for the ARL Commission to make decisions was effective.
''The process whereby the clubs were consulted, the new competition committee was consulted and then we put a recommendation to the commission and were able to communicate their decision to the clubs today was a great process,'' Gallop said.
''It is clear that the competition in terms of the closeness of the teams and the way the home finals now work it was more appropriate to use this new system.''