Manly NRL veteran Steve Matai has slammed reports claiming his phone was seized by police, saying they are baseless.
Seven Network and Fairfax Media both reported on Friday that Matai’s phone had been taken as police investigate allegations of match-fixing in the NRL.
“My phone has never been out of my possession and I have never been interviewed by police,” said Matai in a Manly club statement.
“I am humiliated by the baseless rumour and this is really upsetting for my family.
“I can’t believe my name has been thrown out there like this.”
Manly said Matai had his phone when visited by Manly officials on Friday.
“Steve Matai is a life member who has played over 200 games for the club. Of course we will support such an icon of our club,” said Manly CEO Joe Kelly.
“He has given us no reason to do otherwise over 14 years of service.”
The club said Matai’s management would commence legal proceedings for defamation against media outlets who named Matai in reports about his phone being seized by police.
NSW police have ramped up their probe into match-fixing allegations this week, establishing Strike Force Nuralda, with detectives expected to interview dozens of players, officials and others as they work in conjunction with the NSW Crime Commission.
NSW Police released a statement saying their investigation is subject to the secrecy provisions under the Crime Commission Act (NSW).
“It is important that people, players and officials who may become part of this investigation are not wrongly accused or have their reputations unfairly tarnished on the basis of rumour,” read the statement.
Initial reports had suspicions raised over three matches involving Manly: one against South Sydney and another against Parramatta last year and a clash with Parramatta this year.
However News Corp Australia reported the strike force had now asked betting agencies to reveal every gambling transaction on every market for Sea Eagles games in 2015 and 2016.
Sea Eagles chairman Scott Penn has claimed Manly is a victim of “guilt by innuendo”, revealing the club is yet to be contacted by police.
“We are concerned about the way in which the club brand has been tarnished by speculation,” Penn said.
“It is guilt by innuendo.
“We have reached out to (the police) and literally had one conversation and they said we will get back to you when we are ready.”