NRL star charged over do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - BRENT READ

Manly NRL star Dy­lan Walker has been stood down from train­ing and faces hav­ing his con­tract torn up af­ter be­com­ing the lat­est rugby league player to blacken the code’s name by be­ing caught up in al­le­ga­tions of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Walker, who has rep­re­sented NSW and Aus­tralia, was charged with com­mon as­sault and as­sault oc­ca­sion­ing bod­ily harm af­ter po­lice were called to a home on Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches on Thurs­day.

A po­lice state­ment con­firmed a 24-year-old woman, un­der­stood to be Walker’s fi­ancee Alexan­dra Ivkovic, had al­legedly been as­saulted and suf­fered mi­nor cuts to her shoul­der, leg and feet.

She was treated by paramedics at the scene.

Walker was stood down by the Sea Ea­gles pend­ing his bail hear- ing on De­cem­ber 11. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Lyall Gor­man de­clined to spec­u­late on any pun­ish­ment be­yond that, although the club and the NRL are likely to take the strong­est ac­tion pos­si­ble should the charges be made out.

That would mean Walker hav­ing the fi­nal year of his lu­cra­tive con­tract torn up. There is every chance he could be dereg­is­tered by the NRL for at least a year.

Mr Gor­man said he had spo­ken to Walker’s fi­ancee. “I am try­ing to make sure we look af­ter her wel­fare and the wel­fare of the young baby,” he said.

He con­firmed the NRL in­tegrity unit had been in­formed and that coach Des Hasler had checked on Ms Ivkovic’s wel­fare.

The club has re­ceived sev­eral pay­ments (from prop­erty sales) and has used the money to pay down debt

The NRL has sharp­ened its fo­cus on Cronulla by hold­ing fresh talks with club power­bro­kers over their fi­nan­cial predica­ment and fol­low­ing up with a re­quest for them to pro­vide greater clar­ity around their fu­ture.

The Aus­tralian un­der­stands Sharks of­fi­cials held talks with the NRL ear­lier this week and that af­ter those dis­cus­sions, the club was sent a let­ter ask­ing them to pro­vide more de­tailed in­for- ma­tion by De­cem­ber 21 about their cur­rent fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion and their plans for the fu­ture.

There are con­cerns the club’s ex­is­tence is un­der threat.

The club re­cently made a num­ber of staff re­dun­dant but the NRL is keep­ing a watch­ing brief on Cronulla, cog­nisant that they must pro­duce eight games each week as part of their con­tract with broad­cast­ers the Nine Net­work and Fox Sports.

Un­der the terms of an agree­ment struck be­tween the clubs and the ARL Com­mis­sion more than a year ago, the gov­ern­ing body has greater pow­ers to mon­i­tor the fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity of clubs and that has prompted the NRL to reach out to the Sharks re­quest­ing more in­for­ma­tion.

The clubs also con­trib­ute to a dis­tressed club fund ($3 mil­lion over the past 12 months).

How­ever, the ARL Com­mis­sion de­cides whether clubs are able to get ac­cess to the fund and the sense is that they would leap at the op­por­tu­nity to re­lo­cate a club from Syd­ney to Bris­bane or Perth.

There have been whis­pers that one pow­er­ful Queens­land Cup side based in Bris­bane has been told to ready it­self in the event that one of the game’s ex­ist­ing 16 clubs falls over.

The Sharks are bullish about their fu­ture. It is be­lieved they told the NRL ear­lier this week that they ex­pected to re­ceive up to $8m early next year as part of an on­go­ing de­vel­op­ment at their home ground.

They also point out that the 16 clubs col­lec­tively lose mil­lions — ac­cord­ing to the NRL’s own bench­mark­ing re­port for 2017, the clubs lost a com­bined $60.7m and only one club, Bris­bane, re­turned a profit.

The Sharks fin­ished fourth in com­mer­cial rev­enue in 2017 and in the top five in spon­sor­ship af­ter win­ning the premier­ship the pre­vi­ous year.

How­ever, the club is yet to se­cure any sig­nif­i­cant jer­sey spon­sor­ship for the 2019 sea­son and the con­cern at the NRL is that the club is re­ly­ing on funds from the sale of apart­ments and com­mer­cial prop­erty at a time when the hous­ing mar­ket is in a slump and banks are tight­en­ing their lend­ing.

The club has al­ready re­ceived sev­eral pay­ments as part of that de­vel­op­ment, and has used the money to pay down debt. The Sharks also say they have a num­ber of as­sets that could be sold to en­sure the club re­mains a vi­able en­tity, the most ob­vi­ous their home ground, South­ern Cross Group Sta­dium.

If push came to shove, the Sharks could sell the ground and play their home games out of a re­de­vel­oped Syd­ney Foot­ball Sta­dium. De­spite protes­ta­tions from the op­po­si­tion, the state gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day an­nounced that works for the Syd­ney Foot­ball Sta­dium had been ap­proved and a con­tract for demolition and con­struc­tion of the ground had been awarded.

The state gov­ern­ment is des- per­ate to have NRL clubs play­ing at the ground as they seek to jus­tify their mam­moth spend­ing on the venue. The Sharks could help them out, although sell­ing their home ground would be a last re­sort should the funds fail to flow from the de­vel­op­ment.

While the Sharks’ fi­nan­cial fu­ture re­mains an is­sue, the NRL is also work­ing to­wards re­solv­ing their salary cap in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the club be­fore they close down over the Christ­mas pe­riod.

It is be­lieved fur­ther dis­cus­sions were held this week and for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive Lyall Gor­man yes­ter­day con­firmed he had spo­ken to the NRL in­tegrity unit about be­ing in­ter­viewed.

“We’re in dis­cus­sions around that,” Gor­man said.

Asked whether he was con­cerned about fronting the in­tegrity unit, Gor­man said: “No.”

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