As a follower of one of the other fifteen Clubs in the National Rugby League, I am becoming increasingly infuriated at the soap opera that continues to unfold at Parramatta.
Rather than comment amidst the immediate fallout from the salary cap breaches that were exposed earlier in the year, I felt it would be more prudent to wait. I wanted to give time for the dust to settle and reflect more holistically on the situation with a level head and offer some sensible ideas without vitriol, passion or hatred.
Unfortunately, this article was postponed by a series of off-field events that have further ridiculed the club. I have ultimately arrived at a point where I can’t wait any longer and I’ll try and squeeze this article in before the next landmine goes off.
Waiting for the smoke to clear and seeing Parramatta back on the road to stabilisation and solidarity seems almost futile.
Two other clubs have undertaken something near the financial rorts that Parramatta has committed to the tune of $3 million. In 2002 the Dogs were slapped with a thirty-seven point competition table penalty, a maximum $500,000 fine and various board members fell on their swords.
The club suffered financially, competitively and emotionally through the period and this was well deserved.
The Storm took things to another level through the 2006-2010 seasons. The stripping of their 2007 and 2009 Premierships and the 2006 and 2008 minor premierships, as well as their entire points haul for the 2010 season, was in response to breaches totalling $1.7 million dollars over a five-year period. The forced jettisoning of players such as Greg Inglis, along with utter embarrassment and public disgrace were all repercussions of the club’s fraudulent behaviour.
Both Canterbury and Melbourne were whacked and rightly so. The difference between these two examples and the Parramatta fiasco is that the clubs copped the punishment and for the most part, moved on. The evidence was irrefutable and there appeared to be no point in resisting the inevitable and the deserved.
This allowed the respective seasons to continue without constant distraction and media saturation. The Bulldogs played for points in the last few rounds and the Storm played out a season without the possibility of finals, playing for nothing except the development of combinations and experience for the 2011 season.
Parramatta has unintentionally hijacked this season and the absurd commentary about having to win twelve of the last fourteen, or whatever the equation, was an insult to all the other clubs.
The ‘head in the sand’ approach by the board has turned the entire issue into a circus that could erode much of the work done in the game recently in engaging with fans in terms of growing club memberships.
The NRL has realised that the AFL model of ‘money up front membership’ provides two clear advantages. Firstly, an instant revenue stream, but more importantly, a sense of loyalty to the brand that will hopefully create long-term trust and commitment between the paying member and the club itself.
The pig headedness of the Parramatta Board reflects absolute disdain for the disheartened members, the players and coaching staff and all football fans.
The fact that the Eels were slapped with a $525,000 fine in May 2015 for breaches in 2013 and 2014 along with the untruthful statutory declaration signed by the Club in October 2015, stating that they had complied with the salary cap rules, highlights the lies and the warning signs that were present prior to this season.
Therefore it probably shouldn’t have surprised when the new breaches, connected with third party arrangements, were first alluded to on March 9 this year.
Corey Norman has accepted a $400 fine for his possession of pills after the now infamous meal at a Chinese Restaurant with friends.
Not to be outdone, Semi Radradra took his normal leave to visit family in Fiji. Rumours of French Rugby and Super League circled after allegations were made by a woman, claiming Radradra had assaulted her in 2014 and 2015 and Semi had still not returned. The ‘will he or won’t he’ charade was truly comical. His arrest upon his return was not.
Coach Brad Arthur further fuelled the fire claiming that there were senior figures at the club hoping that he would fail in his efforts to rejuvenate a team that had recently been brought to its knees . Rumours of an interested Warriors board approaching Arthur gained momentum after the coach claimed that the club had been ‘a shambles since I got there’.
To top off one of the most absurd self-destructions of a modern football Club, Channel Seven reported that a sex tape involving Corey Norman was shopped around to media at a reported price of $150,000.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have won fourteen in a row, the Cowboys continue to show premiership quality, Melbourne Storm are scaring the pants off everyone and the Bulldogs have built some real momentum leading into the finals.
You may have missed some of this while the media focussed, understandably so, on drugs, assaults, a recalcitrant Board, AVOs and AWOL players.
Clubs of the past copped the fine, the punishment and the ridicule, moved on and begun the process of getting their shop in order. Parramatta have shown no dignity, leadership or integrity in the whole saga and their punishment should be reviewed.
This scenario is more than just a salary cap breach. This is a club completely out of control on numerous levels and the harm this does to the game overall is immeasurable.
One of my closest friends sits nearby as I complete this piece. He tells me that for fifty-three years he has seen his club tear itself to pieces through both good times and bad.
Hopefully the removal of the entire coard might now create an environment that allows for some planning and implementation of structures for the future. The language of the statement sent to Parramatta members was telling, honest and long overdue.
Chairman Steve Sharp’s request to remove the coard due to his “conclusion that a Board elected by the members is not enough to overcome the deep-seated political issues at the Club” is an amazing yet accurate admission.
Sharp’s acknowledgement that “persons with improper motives will always seek to gain control of our great Club,” also reflects the cancerous culture and a need for the NRL to act.
There are fifteen teams trying to play footy and entertain and one club’s administration seemingly hell-bent on derailing any good work that is done.
Hopefully, the temporary administrator can do what so many have failed to do before. It is an unenviable job, yet for the game of Rugby League in Sydney, it might just be the most important one yet.