Those bloody player agents. Scum of the Earth, all of them. The important thing to remember is that the players are all totally innocent.
Yep, despite signing two contracts for differing amounts, seeing their bank balance increase from companies they’ve never even heard of, or just flat-out receiving brown paper bags full of cash, no NRL player – ever – has assisted the circumventing of the salary cap.
At least, that’s what we’d have to believe, because no NRL player – ever – has been disciplined for salary cap breaches.
Pretty well every year there’s a fresh salary cap scandal in the NRL. And pretty well every year head office finds a way to say it’s everyone else’s fault but the players who actually get paid.
This week the NRL announced disciplinary proceedings against player agents, with Gavin Orr’s accreditation set to be cancelled, Antoun Zibara’s under probation for the next three years, while Isaac Moses and Mario Tartak have been issued show-cause notices.
Now, I’m not saying that these agents are without blame – and Tartak’s issue is “previously undisclosed bankruptcy proceedings”, so I don’t suppose any third party got a leg-up – but why isn’t the NRL going after the players who ultimately benefit from whatever it is their agents are said to have done wrong?
Let’s look at the allegations levelled at Moses:
“The notice alleges that Mr Moses breached his obligations as an accredited agent by counselling or assisting a person to not co-operate fully with the NRL Integrity and Compliance Unit.”
So…who is the “person” Moses counselled or assisted to not co-operate? And did that person just ignore him and do the right thing?
The Sydney Morning Herald claims the action against Moses has come about after “Tim Mannah provided information about him to the NRL integrity unit”.
“It is understood those matters relate to Mannah, who split with Moses earlier this year, and the 2016 Parramatta salary cap scandal,” Andrew Webster reported.
As for Orr, his accreditation is in jeopardy “over an alleged breach of the salary cap rules involving Cheyse Blair and his time at Parramatta in 2013”.
I won’t cast aspersions or make assumptions about who did what, but since it’s a salary cap issue – again – then how about the NRL gets real.
Sure, player agents may be the conduits through which breaches occur, but it’s the player who gets rich and the club who benefits on the field.
So we’ve got three parties here – agents, clubs and players.
The NRL has gone after the clubs on innumerable occasions, while agents are now able to be sanctioned due to new rules.
“The reform of the rules relating to player agents at the end of last year has allowed the NRL to hold player agents accountable in the same way as players and club officials,” NRL chief operating officer Nick Weeks said.
Here’s the thing though Nick, you may be allowed “to hold player agents accountable in the same way as players and club officials”, but while there have been thousands of players registered in the NRL over the years that cap breaches have occurred, not one of them has ever received so much as a cent in reprimand, let alone a week on the sidelines.
The common denominator is pretty clear, so why do we keep letting players walk?
As I’ve argued previously, breaching the salary cap is financial doping.
We’ve perpetuated the myth of the dumb footy player for years but if we expect them to keep track of everything that goes into their body, is it really too much that they do the same for their bank account?
And going after players is easily the most effective way to ensure the salary cap isn’t breached and that player agents are squeaky clean. Because the threat of copping a significant fine or spending up to four years on the sidelines – as is the case with performance-enhancing drugs – would mean players insist their agents aren’t doing the dirty.
After going after agents and clubs, the cap continues to be flouted. There’s one group left to target.
It’s time the NRL starts holding the players responsible for salary cap breaches.