Matthew Johns has backed Phil Gould to step up as NRL CEO amid speculation the ex-NSW coach is being discussed as a possible replacement for the besieged Todd Greenberg.
While Greenberg has been publicly backed by ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys, the NRL boss is under pressure after questions were raised over his financial management in the fallout from the coronavirus shutdown.
Greenberg - off contract in October - has been criticised after it emerged NRL headquarters runs at a yearly cost of $182 million.
He also came under fire for not immediately taking the same 74 per cent pay cut that the NRL players were forced to cop during the shutdown.
Greenberg last week said he did not feel like a "dead man walking" as he worked with V'landys on trying to get the competition back up and running by as early as June 1.
But speculation will not go away that 2020 looks set to be his final season at the helm, with Gould and even super coach Wayne Bennett mentioned as potential replacements.
Former Kangaroo Johns said Gould - who has held an administrative role as NRL club Penrith's football boss - would be a good fit with V'landys.
"A name that is starting to be bandied about as a successor to Todd is Phil Gould," Johns said on Fox League Live.
"One thing about Gus (Gould) that would suit the game is he is not a populist.
"He sometimes says and does things that irritate people and get on people's nerves and that doesn't worry Gus at all.
"That is the sort of bloke you want in charge that is going to be able to back Peter V'landys up and make unpopular decisions sometimes for the betterment of the game."
Gould's name first came up as a possible candidate for the NRL role as far back as last year when NSW coach Brad Fittler threw his former Blues mentor into the mix.
"He's obviously a very intelligent bloke. I would definitely think he'd have the nous to run the game," Fittler told Nine Network.
Greenberg's future has been a hot topic after it emerged he was denied a request for a two-year extension before the 2020 NRL season.
He has taken a back seat to V'landys since the competition was shut down by the pandemic, sparking speculation the pair had fallen out.
But V'landys, who will ultimately have the final say on whether Greenberg will remain CEO when talks resume later in the year, told the Sydney Morning Herald that Greenberg's lower profile had "nothing to do with or about Todd".