Praise for Obeid Jr as salary cap probe kicks in

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - NICK WALSHAW CHRIS­TIAN NICOLUSSI

PAR­RA­MATTA play­ers have la­belled Ed­die Obeid Jr “a good guy” as the NRL in­ves­ti­gates his in­volve­ment in a se­ries of third- party deals which, al­legedly off the books, might to­tal more than $ 1 mil­lion.

The NRL yesterday be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing claims Obeid Jr, the son of for­mer La­bor MP Ed­die Obeid, was in­volved in undis­closed busi­ness deal­ings in­volv­ing star Eels play­ers Chris Sandow, Darcy Lus­sick and Will Hopoate.

In Au­gust last year, it was re­vealed prop Lus­sick had bought a $ 600,000 apart­ment from mem­bers of the Obeid fam­ily – a pur­chase price $ 30,000 lower than what the Obeid’s com­pany had paid for it only months ear­lier.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion also ex­plained how Sandow’s four- year deal, worth more than $ 2 mil­lion, also in­cluded a third- party agree­ment for $ 50,000 which, while not iden­ti­fy­ing Obeid Jr as the bene­fac­tor, was to be fi­nanced by the pas­sion­ate Eels sup­porter.

Fresh al­le­ga­tions have also emerged this week al­leg­ing Obeid Jr – dur­ing the reign of for­mer Eels chair­man Roy Spag­nolo – or­gan­ised for Sandow’s lu­cra­tive con­tract to be in­creased by as much as $ 200,000 an­nu­ally and Hopoate re­ceiv­ing up to $ 100,000 ex­tra.

It’s also sug­gested Spag­nolo, who has since been found un­fit to run a reg­is­tered club, di­rected a num­ber of third­party player pay­ments, in­clud­ing cash owed to star Jar­ryd Hayne, into front com­pa­nies cre­ated for his own prop­erty de­vel­op­ment deals.

While there is no sug­ges­tion play­ers know­ingly breached the cap, it is al­leged that dur­ing Spag­nolo’s time in power, undis­closed pay­ments could have ex­ceeded $ 1 mil­lion.

In a state­ment yesterday, NRL head of in­tegrity Nick Weeks said salary cap au­di­tors would in­ves­ti­gate. “The salary cap is one of the main rea­sons we have the clos­est sport­ing com­pe­ti­tion in Aus­tralia,” Weeks said. “We have al­ready shown that we are pre­pared to take a hard line against breaches and these al­le­ga­tions will be in­ves­ti­gated.”

Asked about the mat­ter yesterday, Lus­sick replied: “This got brought up last year and, from what it said in the pa­per … the NRL were go­ing to in­ves­ti­gate. I haven’t heard any­thing from it. They can in­ves­ti­gate it all they want.

“Ed­die is a fam­ily friend of my­self, my brother and my dad. He’s a fam­ily man, a busi­ness­man and I’ve got all the time in the world for Ed­die.”

The Townsville Bul­letin is not sug­gest­ing Obeid Jr has done any­thing wrong even if the NRL in­ves­ti­ga­tion es­tab­lishes he was mak­ing un­reg­is­tered third- party pay­ments. It is up to all clubs to de­clare third- party pay­ments.

PARRA POWER­BRO­KER: For­mer boss Roy Spag­nolo.

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