Eels can play for points again: NRL

Parramatta can resume playing for premiership points immediately after the NRL backflipped on its hardline stance.

The governing body announced the change in a “Parramatta Update” statement on Friday.

It means the Eels can earn competition points against South Sydney next Friday when the competition resumes despite the salary cap scandal hanging over the club.

However they will need to be under the salary cap or any points earned may be taken away again when the NRL’s final determination on the club’s alleged salary cap breaches are handed down.

That will be when the club’s response to the NRL’s breach notice is considered – and that could be in about six weeks.

The NRL had previously insisted Parramatta could not play for points again until they shaved $570,000 off their current spending on players to comply with the salary cap.

In Friday’s statement an NRL spokesman said the penalty proposed by the NRL earlier this week – a $1 million fine and the loss of all (12) competition points earned by the Eels was unchanged.

“As we said from the outset, this is a preliminary decision and the club now has an opportunity to respond,” he said.

“Once the club’s response is considered, the NRL will make a final determination on the penalty which may be the same or it may change.

“The club can accrue points while the breach process is ongoing but the NRL will determine whether those points are retained in its final determination.

“As we have said before, if the club gets under the salary cap in the meantime that will be a material consideration.”

The imminent retirement of injury-troubled forward Anthony Watmough would significantly help that.

The news came after the NRL also backed down on an earlier stance by CEO Todd Greenberg that Parramatta couldn’t play for points until the five Eels officials facing deregistration left the club.

The NRL’s counsel Lachlan Gyles told the NSW Supreme Court on Friday the five officials’ legal action against the league was being dealt with as a separate matter.

“It is a side show,” Gyles told the court.

Arthur Moses SC, the lawyer representing Eels chairman Steve Sharp, chief executive John Boulous, head of football Daniel Anderson, deputy chairman Tom Issa and director Peter Serrao, confirmed he received paperwork from the NRL on Thursday stating their involvement with Parramatta was a separate issue.

The Supreme Court injunction allowing the five men to continue in their roles at the Eels was on Friday carried over until Monday.

The quintet had been provisionally suspended among a raft of sanctions handed down on Tuesday by the NRL for alleged systemic salary cap breaches dating back to 2013.

Friday’s developments were in contrast to comments made by Greenberg on Fox Sports on Tuesday, only hours after handing down his provisional sanctions.

When asked on NRL 360 if Parramatta could accrue points if the five officials remained with the club, Greenberg replied: “The short answer is no.

“The breach notice is very clear on the registration of officials and directors and they need to adhere to those provisions and that is also linked to them accruing points in the future.”

The directors were initially given a week to respond to the NRL’s move to deregister them.

That time frame has now been extended until June 3.

A final decision on the NRL’s move to dock the Eels points and fine them $1 million is expected to be made two weeks after that date.

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