In his maiden address to parliament nearly two years ago, NSW Sports Minister Graham Annesley foreshadowed that match-fixing could infiltrate Australian sport.
Annesley was proved correct by Thursday’s Australian Crime Commission (ACC) report and the former NRL chief operating officer says sports were risking their future by not acting on corruption.
He said if claims of match-fixing are proven and it continues to occur in Australia, the “unusual element which gives credibility to sport and makes it appealing to fans could be lost”.
Annesley, a former grand final referee, said there were stories of corruption overseas “that would make your hair curl” and Australian sporting bodies could be ruined if the same was replicated on local shores.
In light of the ACC report, Annesley said bodies needed to get on the front foot and convince the public that their products are “fair dinkum”.
“Once people think there’s a fix on, it’s very, very hard to convince them that things are fair dinkum after that,” Annesley told AAP.
“It just raises suspicions even when there is nothing wrong. It’s kind of like once bitten, twice shy as far as the general public is concerned.
“If they think something is a rort or a fix, it’s very, very hard to convince them the next time they see something unusual happen that it wasn’t the same.
“And sport is about unusual things happening.
“When players are involved in an incident that you may not see very often, you’d like to think that’s just the very nature of sport. Yet it can arouse suspicions now about why did that happen? – where that was never the case in years gone by.”
Annesley worked at the NRL at the time sports scientist Stephen Dank was employed at Manly.
Dank is under heavy scrutiny for his involvement in supplying supplements to Essendon AFL players.
Annesley said he hadn’t heard of Dank until this week and said it wasn’t uncommon for administrators to be unaware of the identities of club training staff.
“Particularly training staff – because you’re not at their training sessions, you don’t run into them on match day,” he said.