NRL: Eels stripped 12 points and fined $1m

New Zealand Warriors Tuimoala Lolohea in action against the Parramatta Eels in the Final of the NRL Nines at Eden Park on Sunday which was played over the weekend. 7 February 2016 New Zealand Herald
New Zealand Warriors Tuimoala Lolohea in action against the Parramatta Eels in the Final of the NRL Nines at Eden Park on Sunday which was played over the weekend. 7 February 2016 New Zealand Herald

The central figures in Parramatta's systemic cheating of the salary cap have hurt rugby league's reputation, NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg says.

Five Parramatta officials have been banned from the game in the wake of the Eels rorting the NRL salary cap. They include chairman Steve Sharp, a premiership-winning player for the club during a 167-game career for the Eels, and former Warriors and Kiwis coach Daniel Anderson.

As well as deregistering the five officials, Parramatta will lose 12 competition points and have been fined A$1 million for salary cap breaches dating back to the 2013 NRL season. They were also stripped of this year's NRL Auckland Nines title, and there will be no official winner for 2016 - the Warriors were beaten finalists.

"These five officials have damaged the game," Greenberg said. "They have damaged the club and they've let their fans down.

"Let me say this is not an easy call to make, especially for someone like Steve Sharp."

Greenberg said the NRL would now take a closer interest in the operations of the Parramatta club.

"The NRL has deliberately decided not to intervene in the affairs of the club while this investigation has been under way but that changes now," he said. "We want to see a strong board and we will do all we can to facilitate that.

"The time for in-fighting and factionalism is over. The members have a chance to clear the decks and rebuild the club and we will be encouraging them to do so."

Deputy chairman Tom Issa, club director Peter Serrao, chief executive John Boulous and football manager Anderson have also had their registrations cancelled.

"The overall impression that I got from the responses is that no one at the club has taken responsibility for the deliberate, systemic and blatant breaches of the salary cap," Greenberg said.

"We have to take a strong stand to preserve the integrity of the salary cap and the competition."

Today's announcement came on the back of Parramatta's (temporary) move into the NRL's top four on Friday night with a come-from-behind win over the Sydney Roosters. But Saturday's decision leaves the Eels in 12th on the premiership table with 12 competition points and they are now all but out of contention for this year's finals series. The Warriors were a beneficiary of their demotion, moving up one place to seventh.

But coach Brad Arthur is not giving up.

Allowing for 28 points being the cut-off to make the final eight, Arthur's team rates as a mathematical chance of getting there with 16 competition points on offer until the end of the home-and-away season.

Parramatta's run towards an unlikely finals appearance will start against Penrith next Sunday and, on what Arthur has seen amid the disasters of 2016, he will be the last one to think his players can't perform a rugby league miracle.

"The fact that they keep turning up for each other on the tryline - back-rowers and front-rowers defending in the centres - and they just kept turning up. The attitude is great. We've just got to keep working hard."

Such has been Parramatta's on-field resolve, even NRL boss Todd Greenberg said during Saturday's announcement he had nothing but admiration for Arthur and the Eels' players.

"If Parramatta can make the eight from where they are now ... they thoroughly deserve to be there," he later told Triple M radio.

Top 3 salary cap infringements

2002 - The Bulldogs were disqualified from the 2002 final series, handed a $500,000 fine and a 37-point penalty after breaching the cap by $1 million.

2006 - The Warriors started the season on -4 points and fined $430,000 for breaching the salary cap by almost $1 million.

2010 - The game's biggest salary cap scandal. The Storm are stripped of two premiership titles and three minor premierships, docked all points for 2010, fined $500,000 and ordered to return $1.1 million in prizemoney after rorting the cap by $1.7 million over five years.

- NZ Herald

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