Off the Wall

After a great final Origin game, and some outstanding (and not before time) matches over the weekend, this week is going to be a difficult one for rugby league.

Tomorrow News Limited, the owner of the Melbourne Storm, will release an audit into the salary cap rorting that has cost the Storm two premierships and any chance in the 2010 season.

It will not be a good look - for the Storm, and frankly for the NRL.

We now know that the extent of the abuse, especially in the 2011 season, and probably this season, will be significantly greater than was originally estimated.

We also now know that the payments outside the salary cap declarations to a number of Storm players will be in the region of $150,000 a season - each!

What we want to know is exactly which players, which player managers, and which Storm officials, knew of the rorts, and participated in them or turned a blind eye to them.

This needs to be treated, by the NRL, the same way the racing industry treats rorts which result in the rigging of thoroughbred events...such as the Fine Cotton affair.

That is exactly what those who participated in the Storm rort did - they rigged the premiership, just as those behind the Fine Cotton scandal rigged a horse race.

The penalties the racing industry imposed on the rorters were severe - at least one went to jail, and the organisers, and bookmakers etc who were "in" on the rort were "warned off" for a long period. By being "warned off" they were not able to attend any race meeting in Australia.

If the audit confirms the pivotal role of Brian Waldron in the disgrace, he should be "warned off" for attending any rugby league match - just as we warn off louts who invade the field, or cause problems in the crowd at NRL matches.

The issue of what to do with players who have been paid substantial sums over the salary cap is a vexed one. Consideration must be given to requiring them to pay back any massive over-payment.

Player denials of knowledge of the rorts are just not plausible when it comes to the worst offenders - if some is dropping a lazy $3,000 EXTRA a week into your bank account you would surely be aware of it!

Then there is the issue of player managers - who must have known if their players were being paid $150,000 a year, or more, over and above their declared contracts.

They need to be disqualified - and warned off as well.

When the full extent of the abuse is revealed, the Storm need to focus on the reality that their player ranks will have to be decimated at the end of this season.

Players who benefited massively from the abuse of the salary cap should be given no special consideration. But those who are also victims of it ought to be given some concession if they have to move to another club - they have been penalised enough already.

Then there is the question of how a massive rigging of the salary cap can be prevented in the future.

The NRL claims its salary cap auditor has done a sterling job exposing the Storm rort.
But when you read the history of how it was revealed the truth is somewhat different.

If Waldron had not resigned from the Storm earlier this year, would the abuse have EVER been discovered?

The NRL needs to urgently review the effectiveness of its salary cap monitoring process.

The long awaited audit will not be pleasant reading for a lot of people - but there must be no cover ups, no sweeping issues under the mat, no going soft on the guilty.

The integrity of our game demands nothing less!

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