How Manly’s dodgy deals cost the Titans DCE
NRL salary cap investigators found the Manly Sea Eagles cheated the salary cap in convincing skipper Daly Cherry-Evans to backflip on the Gold Coast Titans in 2015 in a deal that was so suspect their then chief executive threatened to quit.
Cherry-Evans agreed to an eight-year $10 million contract, at the time the most lucrative in NRL history, to play the remainder of his career at the Sea Eagles.
However the money registered in salary cap documents was less than what he was actually being paid with sources revealing he was getting another $400,000 outside of the cap.
There are no suggestions Cherry-Evans was aware of the payment discrepancies.
However, details reveal that then chief executive Joe Kelly refused to sign off on Cherry-Evans' contract and offered to hand in his resignation, such were his concerns.
Instead chairman and owner Scott Penn signed off on the deal before it was registered by the NRL, but insists the Sea Eagles did not break salary cap rules.
Manly also secured the signature of centre Dylan Walker from the South Sydney Rabbitohs under a similar arrangement to Cherry-Evans in that he was paid outside the salary cap figures.
Again, there's no suggestion Walker knew of the payment discrepancies.
In 800,000 pages of documents captured from mobile phones and computer hard drives, the NRL found a total of 13 players had been paid outside the cap over five years.
Five of them were serious breaches - the rest for more minor infringements like free cars that were supposed to have been included in the salary cap.
The NRL finally completed its nine-month investigation by handing down a series of penalties on Monday in revealing the club had paid an extra $1.5 million to players outside of the cap.
The penalties included a $750,000 fine to be reduced to $500,000 if the club undertakes appropriate governance changes to ensure there is no repeat of the breaches.
• The club will play $330,000 under the salary cap for the next two seasons;
• Roosters CEO Joe Kelly, the former Manly boss, was suspended for 12 months;
• Sea Eagles chief operating officer Neil Bare was suspended for 12 months;
• Coach Trent Barrett got an official warning and league immortal Bob Fulton will no longer be considered for a role as an Australian selector; and
• Manly Owner Penn was also issued an official warning for his part.
"There's some learnings Trent can take from this," Greenberg said.
Fulton quit Manly in August last year, one month into the salary cap investigation. He insists his decision to leave was unrelated to the NRL investigation.
"It's fair to say Bob was heavily engaged in negotiations for the period of time he worked at Manly," Greenberg said.
"Bob (Fulton) is not a registered official of the game, and so we have no ability to sanction any rules on people that sit outside the game."
Pressed on Fulton's future role as an Australian Kangaroos selector, Greenberg confirmed he would not be considered for a role.
Fulton reacted angrily when asked to respond.
"Can somebody tell me what I've done wrong," he said.
"I want a bit of transparency here.
"I handed my phone over. I still have a text message where I put myself up for face-to-face interview.
"Then I was away for three weeks and they wanted to do it over Skype."
It's believed Fulton wasn't involved in finalising the deals.
In his statement, Greenberg said Manly had illegally secured players that might have gone to other club if it had not been for their cheating.
""The evidence is compelling, the evidence is clear," he said.
"The investigation found a number of cases where players were offered undisclosed benefits outside the salary cap to attract them to the club.
"These benefits were in the form of third party agreements which were never declared to the salary cap auditor.
"In other words, Manly had a financial advantage in securing the services of players who may otherwise have gone to other clubs.
"Our salary cap is the main reason we have the closest competition in Australian sport and we will not tolerate any attempt to breach it.
"Every club needs to be aware that any attempt to cheat the salary cap will eventually be detected and the club involved will be heavily sanctioned."
The NRL found one player agent in the Manly scandal was previously involved in the Parramatta Eels case but remains unpunished.