The Roosters will lose CEO Joe Kelly for at least nine months, and Manly COO Neil Bare has also been suspended, as the NRL hands down its punishments for the Sea Eagles' salary cap rorting.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on March 26, 2018

After a nine-month investigation, the NRL’s Integrity Unit has found the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles deliberately rorted the salary cap by $1.5 million over the past five years.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg today announced a handful of punishments, including the 12-month suspensions of Sydney Roosters CEO Joe Kelly and Sea Eagles’ chief operating officer Neil Bare.

Kelly was CEO of the Sea Eagles from November 2014 to October 2016.

The pair can return to work after nine months, if they complete “appropriate governance training” before then.

On top of that, inaugural Immortals inductee Bob Fulton will be sacked as Kangaroos selector, and coach Trent Barrett has been issued an official warning.

As for the financials, the Sea Eagles will have to play $330,000 under the cap both this season, and in 2019. The club has also been fined $750,000, but can shave $250,000 off that total, if it can get its house in order.

The NRL said it had uncovered more than 800,000 documents including emails and text messages when they forensically audited the club in July of last year.

“The investigation found a number of cases where players were offered undisclosed benefits outside the salary cap to attract them to the club,” Greenberg said.

“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.”

In response, Manly has indicated it is considering appealing the decision.

“We’re working hard to ensure that the long and proud reputation of the Sea Eagles is upheld. We’re concerned at the impact that this investigation has had on our players, supporters, sponsors and staff,” said chairman Scott Penn.

“We will now consider our options in relation to appealing the NRL’s decision.”

Should Manly have been docked points?

Canterbury was stripped of all 37 competition points in the 2002 season, after exceeding the cap by more than $1 million over two years.

New Zealand was docked four points ahead of the 2006 season, after breaching the cap by $1 million over the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

Melbourne was infamously stripped of the 2007 and 2009 premierships, and docked all competition points for 2010, after the NRL uncovered a rort of more than $1.7 million over five years.

And most recently, in 2016, Parramatta was found to have been rorting the cap to the tune of $3 million since 2013, and was subsequently stripped of the Auckland Nines trophy and docked 12 competition points, which guaranteed the team would miss the finals.

Manly’s breach appears to be strikingly similar to the Storm’s, but Greenberg said no points would be docked because the roster is cap compliant for the 2018 season.

“Given the club has been cap compliant in 2018, no competition points will be deducted,” Greenberg said, before being asked how he would explain that to an Eels supporter.

“I can understand why that would be a question that a Parramatta fan would ask.

“The simple answer is that Manly are playing in a salary cap compliant roster for 2018 and the difference with other situations, and you call Parramatta out, is they were playing well over the salary cap at that particular time.

“So the reason there’s no points coming off Manly in 2018 is that they’re playing with a roster that’s well and truly under the salary cap.”