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.