Through the main roads and dodgy side streets of the Warriors salary cap disaster, the story comes back to one central character: the elusive Australian Mick Watson.

You can almost hear the collective sigh of tiredness at the mention of this discredited figure - the urge to hold back from raking an old coal, that it is time to get on with the below-zero season so as not to be frozen in the bad times.

This, you suspect, was always the Warriors' hope. Tremors that were first noticed in November took three months to be revealed as an earthquake, a rather fortunate outcome which has enabled the "new management" to do their whistle-blowing close to the first blow of a referee's whistle.

Idle hands make the devil's work and in the sports hiatus that is the New Zealand Christmas/New Year period, why throw the media a scandal when the main diversion is the news of cricketers doing throwdowns.

Through accident or design, the Warriors and the NRL have timed it as nicely as they can under the circumstances, with a plausible enough story about when if not how, at a time when attention can be diverted to the games ahead.

Yes, the Warriors board and management threw a scare into this theory on Monday night, denouncing their punishment and risking more damaging controversy. But maybe this indicates that their master plan included an outlandish dose of false hope.

Taking this punishment on the chin, cleaning out the sores, refraining from another arse-covering exercise, that is what is required. The Warriors cheated, and got caught. What else is the NRL supposed to do, in protecting the founding document of the new league era?

The salary cap is so fundamental nowadays that it even props up the game in England, where Australasian players in good working order head for final pay days well beyond their Downunder dreams.

The offending Warriors chief executive Mick Watson, meanwhile, has slithered off, saving any comments so far for a favoured few and, according to his old Warriors chairman Maurice Kidd, remaining nonchalantly unapologetic.

While little or any restraints were placed on Watson by a board which never met, this is not entirely a new concept. The Warriors board clearly reneged on its duty, but the main villain here is Mick Watson.

The chief executive rightly gets a certain amount of faith and trust, but any diligent board must have noticed the breaches uncovered in this case.

I have never encountered the sort of reaction that emerged while I was researching for a profile of Mick Watson last April.

People talked in hushed voices, so to speak. They didn't want to be quoted. One businessman who provided information threatened, with tongue only slightly in cheek, unpleasantness in this direction should his identity be revealed, so much did he fear a Watson business backlash.

On the surface, and if you'd read about Watson in the women's magazines and elsewhere, you might have had the impression of a gregarious and over-energised chief executive with a side dedication to charity work.

Yet those who dealt with this raspy-voiced Rasputin in the court of league painted a picture of a bullying egomaniac, boastful, clever but erratic, charming and intimidating, with a sinister humour and propensity for vindictive behaviour.

After the Pasifika rugby ballyhoo two years ago, when the Warriors chief executive turned his sights to a major career in union, Watson himself told me this: that club owner Eric Watson told him he had "f***** up" by diverting his attention away from the Warriors.

This may have been the pivotal moment in what turned into the salary cap crisis, and a crisis for the game in this country.

A man who felt he could walk on water had no trouble trampling over the NRL rules in pursuit of the big signings that would make him a key player in league again. Enter Steve Price and Ruben Wiki.

Presumably in Watson's eyes, big signings would also impress the only man who counted to him and his future, Eric Watson. Mick Watson always gave me the impression he was more interested in the Watson business empire than a little ol' league club.

The curious thing about Mick Watson's position now is that according to Cullen Investments' chief operating officer Liz Style, he is still linked to Warriors owners Cullen Sports through his management of boxer Shane Cameron.

Attempts to locate Mick Watson have failed. A journalist still favoured with Watson's words reported over the weekend that he was doing errand work for Eric Watson in Canada recently, involving amounts of money that turn this salary cap rort into a drop in the ocean.

Mick Watson may have brought the Warriors to their knees, but he doesn't seem to have been counted out by the club owners. Far from it.

The fans, who are being asked for loyalty after betrayal, might take note.