FELL SWOOP: NRL CEO Todd Greenberg this week hit Parramatta with a $1 million fine and docked the club 12 competition points for salary cap breaches. Picture: Getty ImagesIgnorance is bliss or –so the saying goes –but inthe weird and wacky world of rugby league, itwould appearthat ignorance isa sure-fire route to pain and agony.
The overwhelming sentiment after the hammer finally fell on the Parramatta salary cap scandal on Tuesday was one of sympathy for the players and rightly so.
Theysigned contracts in good faith and were entitled to believe that theywere above board –including the myriad of murky third party deals that appear to have gotten the Eels into this mess.
What also can’tand should not be ignored is that amongthe reams of documents that the NRL has poured over in order to hand down lightersanctions that were appliedMelbourne and the Bulldogs’ salary cap rorts was evidence of cash payments to players.
Similar tales emerged in the wash-up to the Melbourne and Canterbury salary capsagas, ofboats and cars and whatever else ending up in garages – no questions asked. That’s largely where the problem lies,more questions should probably be asked.
Of course it’s not thejob of players to be completely abreast ofentire club’s financials,but they should at least be as informed as possible when it comes to their own affairs. Too many don’t know where their money really comes from and –in some sad cases –where it eventually goes.
It’s becoming clearer by the day that players need to do more to guard against being let down by people who are supposed to have their interests at heart. It’s a sad fact –there are already so few people players can genuinely lean on and trust –but it’s the reality.
The NSW Supreme Court injunction successfully sought by chairman Steve Sharp, CEO John Boulos, directors Tom Issa and Scott Serrao and football manager Daniel Anderson shows, when the axe falls it’s every man for himself.
The NRL has softened it’s stance on their de-registrations but, had they not, ‘the gang of five’ seemed perfectly comfortable to send their team out to play for nothing next week to save their own skins.
Just as powerful club executives trampled over a stadium deal that would have left Sydney with two world classstadiums because it didn’t suit their immediate agendas; just as NRL coaches have thumbed their noses at thetraditional City-Country clashby pulling players out by the boat-load; just as boards sack coaches to save their own seats…self-interest reigns in rugby league.
The Sergeant Schultz “I know nusssing”excuse will often result in public sympathy but,as too many players have learned in recent seasons, it won’t spare them the pain and consequences of other people’s actions.
It was Canterbury players in 2002 and Melbourne players in 2010 that wore the brunt of their club boards’ failings just as Cronulla players continue to carry the stain of the club’s illegal supplements program anddamage to their reputations.At some point players must put their fate in the hands of others, whether it be in terms of the salary cap, training orperformancebut blind faith? It inevitably ends in tears.
It’s now the Parramatta players who face a monumental task to reach the play-offs though their response and that of coach Brad Arthur has been nothing short of absolute class.
You may say none of it’s their faultand you’d be right. But when it all goes tits-up, it’s their head in the guillotine.You’d think they would ask a few more questions about those brown paper bags.
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