Off the Wall

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In the welter of media coverage of events surrounding the Melbourne Storm's salary cap breach, there is one issue which the NRL needs to resolve - and resolve regardless of any court proceedings by Storm Directors.

In the hours leading up to the decision by the NRL to effectively give the Storm the 2010 "wooden spoon", a number of people backed the Storm to "win" the wooden spoon at odds of around 200/1.

A number of bets were placed to win thousands of dollars - and a number of much smaller bets followed.

The major bets could not possibly have been made without some "inside knowledge", or a very good tip. The smaller best may well be a case of everyday punters following the money - as happens all the time.

What troubled me when it first emerged was the way in which the various betting agencies almost fell over themselves to say that the bets would be honoured...including at least one for which the payout was a five figure sum.

Betting agencies are not charities - yet the response to the issue would have one believe they are.

Clearly, the betting agencies were prepared to sacrifice not inconsiderable sums in order to avoid, or at best minimise, scrutiny of the dark side of betting on NRL matches - and sporting events generally. That is the only reasonable conclusion one can draw.

David Gallop promised the NRL would conduct a "rigorous" investigation into the plunge on the Storm to win the wooden spoon - rigorous maybe, but hardly in haste.

It is now almost a month since the Storm were stripped on their competition points and consigned to the bottom of the premiership table for the 2010 season, yet nothing has been revealed arising from what ought to be a reasonably easy exercise.

If the bets were cash bets placed in a TAB outlet the prospect of detecting those who placed them is reduced. But if they were placed online, or via phone betting, it should be a relatively easy task - and certainly not one that takes a month to identify. It is certainly not rocket science.

Meanwhile the rumours grow almost daily that current and former club officials, and others directly connected with the game, cleaned up.

The only way these rumours can be either confirmed or put to rest is for the NRL investigation to be made public. And for any official who used inside information to bet on the Storm winning the wooden spoon to be deal with!

Recently the AFL imposed a range of sanctions - including suspensions - for a number of club officials who placed very small bets in AFL matches. There was no suggestion of improper use of inside knowledge or information in any of these cases.

That is quite different to the circumstances the NRL is supposedly investigating.

While the NRL may now be distracted by the court case brought by Storm Directors, it needs to "clear the air" on the plunge on the Storm to win the wooden spoon. And it needs to clear it now.

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