Cloud remains as Storm players cleared - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cloud remains as Storm players cleared

By Steve Jancetic 15/07/2010 06:46:55 PM Comments (0)

The independent audit found no evidence to suggest Melbourne's glittering array of NRL superstars knew they were involved in salary cap breaches - but the shadow of suspicion still follows their every step.

The unwillingness of players to cooperate with investigators from independent auditor Deloitte left questions unanswered as to what the players knew about the systematic rorting of the salary cap by Storm officials.

News Limited boss John Hartigan revealed the names of 13 players - including seven who are still on the Storm's books - as having received payments outside the regulations of the cap.

Three of those players - Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and skipper Cameron Smith - were also found to have 'side letters' detailing payments in excess of the figures in their contract, with the latter two and their managers having signed off on these payments.

But despite their involvement, Hartigan said there was no evidence to prove players were aware third party payments were in breach of the cap.

Asked how confident he was that players did not know their payments were outside the cap, Hartigan said:

"That's not up for me work through whether they knew or didn't know.

"There's no evidence that they knew and we've got to treat that on the basis of the respect that comes with that.

"That (the side letters) doesn't mean anything - as far as they're concerned that might well be within the cap and in fact in one of the side letters it insisted that the payments that were outlined were covered by the cap."

NRL chief executive David Gallop did not appear to be as forgiving.

"I would think that alarm bells should have been ringing with players and their managers with some of the arrangements that were put in place," Gallop said.

Asked about the players not cooperate with investigators, Hartigan said:

"I think it's just largely unfortunate. I think they were advised to not (cooperate)."

Despite labelling their silence as "unacceptable", Hartigan said he hoped the club could hold onto the 'Fab Four' of Inglis, Slater, Smith and Cooper Cronk.

He admitted that would require the cooperation of the NRL as the Storm looked to balance the books - but Gallop ruled out widespread paycuts as occurred at the Bulldogs when they were exposed as salary cap cheats in 2002.

"I think we learned some lessons from the Bulldogs," Gallop said.

"You need to look at the salary cap at the point the player is on the market and he's receiving offers from others - that's the point at which you can take him out of play if you offer side deals.

"Having said that, there are situations where limited paycuts are allowed and have been allowed over the years and we'd be certainly looking to be consistent in how we've treated other clubs in that regard.

"Wholesale paycuts are not going to be the answer to this problem."

"But there are mechanisms for extending contracts which allows for some paycuts and we'd certainly be open to that as we have been with other clubs over the years."

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