NRL to be­gin spot salary cap checks


THE NRL will be­gin con­duct­ing salary cap spot checks on clubs in a bid to un­cover sys­tem­atic rort­ing and to re­store con­fi­dence in the game’s in­tegrity.

Rugby league has been rocked by three salary cap scan­dals in the space of just eight years with Manly the lat­est to be added to a shame file that also in­cludes Par­ra­matta and Mel­bourne.

Those busts have raised con­cerns the prac­tice is wide­spread, cre­at­ing scep­ti­cism among fans and the clubs them­selves.

The NRL has al­ways had the power to con­duct spot checks, but their in­ves­ti­ga­tions have been largely re­ac­tionary.

Pre­vi­ous rorts have been pri­mar­ily un­earthed by whistle­blow­ers, rather than the re­sult of in­ves­tiga­tive work from head of­fice, which didn’t find any anom­alies dur­ing its sched­uled au­dits.

The pre­vi­ous pro­to­col was for the NRL to con­duct half-yearly au­dits of the clubs, Rugby League Cen­tral fore­warn­ing them when they were com­ing and which files they wished to in­spect.

Such a prac­tice ef­fec­tively tips off clubs that are cook­ing the books, giv­ing them time to cover their tracks.

In a bid to catch cheats off guard, the NRL is pre­par­ing to be­gin drop­ping in on its 16 teams unan­nounced.

Au­di­tors could choose their clubs at ran­dom or based on in­for­ma­tion they have re­ceived, giv­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors an op­por­tu­nity to ex­am­ine over the books.

It is hoped the prac­tice will give fans con­fi­dence about the in­tegrity of the sport and also act as a deter­rent to those in club­land con­sid­er­ing cheat­ing.

‘‘We’ve got noth­ing to hide, we’d wel­come them in with open arms to­mor­row,’’ said one club power­bro­ker.

‘‘I’m not sure if other clubs would be quite so ex­cited about the prospect. If you’ve got noth­ing to hide, then you’ve got noth­ing to fear.’’

The Manly mat­ter re­mains on­go­ing. The NRL found the Sea Ea­gles guilty of sys­temic breaches in­volv­ing 13 play­ers worth A$1.5 mil­lion over five years. How­ever, the Sea Ea­gles have sought leave to ap­peal against the find­ings and sanc­tions, which in­clude a A$750,000 fine (A$250,000 sus­pended) and the de­duc­tion of A$660,000 from their salary cap for this year and next.

The Sea Ea­gles face an up­hill task to over­turn the de­ci­sion. The NRL ap­peals com­mit­tee pro­ce­dural rules state: ‘‘If the NRL ap­peals com­mit­tee is of the opinion that the is­sue or is­sues raised by an ap­peal might be de­cided in favour of the ap­pel­lant but con­sider that no sub­stan­tial mis­car­riage of jus­tice has oc­curred, the NRL ap­peals com­mit­tee shall dis­miss the ap­peal and may di­rect the ap­pel­lant to pay the re­spon­dent’s rea­son­able costs of and in­ci­den­tal to the ap­peal.’’

Like the pre­vi­ous two cap scan­dals, third-party agree­ments were the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor in the Sea Ea­gles mat­ter.

A com­mit­tee, which in­cludes sev­eral club chief ex­ec­u­tives – one of which is Manly’s Lyall Gor­man – is tasked with over­haul­ing a sys­tem that is vul­ner­a­ble to ma­nipu- la­tion.

There could well be an­other change that has a marked ef­fect on the sport’s in­tegrity. All reg­is­tered par­tic­i­pants can avail them­selves of a mora­to­rium in the game’s rules that al­lows them to come clean about cap cheat­ing with­out fear of reprisal. But there could soon be an even greater onus on full dis­clo­sure of sus­pected rorts if pro­posed amend­ments to the Cor­po­ra­tions Act go through.

Un­der pro­posed changes to the whistle­blow­ing amend­ments, there would be greater pro­tec­tions for those lift­ing the lid while mak­ing it eas­ier for them to seek com­pen­sa­tion through the courts. The mea­sures, which could be in­tro­duced by July 1, mean that di­rec­tors could be held per­son­ally li­able, with penal­ties of up to A$200,000 for in­di­vid­u­als who vic­timise or iden­tify whistle­blow­ers.

In a rugby league con­text, the game’s rules call for any­one who sus­pects an in­tegrity breach to pass on that in­for­ma­tion.. The Sun-Her­ald GETTY IM­AGES

Oth­ers will be think­ing about it though, in­clud­ing NSW­coach Brad Fit­tler.

Koroisau, full­back Tom Tr­bo­je­vic and his brother Jake, a NSW shoe-in, have formed part of a lethal run­ning and slick pass­ing com­bi­na­tion through the mid­dle at Manly this year.

This has led to Koroisau lead­ing all hook­ers for try in­volve­ments and line-break as­sists.

‘‘It’s fun,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve seen a few teams where the hook­ers just pass off the deck and de­fend.

‘‘To play in a team like this where Trent Bar­rett al­lows you to play your kind of footy and ev­ery­one else jumps off the back of that is amaz­ing.

‘‘He knows we have that abil­ity to turn up for each other and play that ad-lib footy.’’

Koroisau’s de­vel­op­ment at Manly has been rapid since he left Pen­rith at the end of 2015, where he acted as a bit-part player in his one year there un­der Ivan Cleary.

Koroisau could to­day pose the big­gest threat to Cleary’s de­fen­sive wall at the Tigers, given he’s the cat­a­lyst of Manly’s un­struc­tured play through the mid­dle third.

But his for­mer coach isn’t sur­prised the 25-year-old’s name is in the Ori­gin dis­cus­sion.

‘‘He’s a real hand­ful and a gen­uine op­por­tu­nity for Ori­gin this year,’’ he said. - AAP

Clubs will be un­der the gun as the NRL steps up ef­forts to stamp out rort­ing the salary cap.

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