Eels’ glimmer of hope over NRL cap penalty

Gutted at watching Melbourne play for nothing in 2010, NRL boss Todd Greenberg says he will be “very happy” if Parramatta win the premiership – despite being stripped of 12 competition points for systemic salary-cap rorting.

After being hit with a breach notice outlining the loss of the points they had accrued so far this year, plus a $1 million fine, Eels lawyers late on Tuesday had success in the NSW Supreme Court.

There they secured a temporary order barring the NRL from enacting registration sanctions against Eels chairman Steven Sharp, football manager Daniel Anderson, chief executive John Boulous and fellow officials Tom Issa and Peter Serrao sought.

Unlike Melbourne in 2010, Parramatta have at least been given a glimmer of hope for the season ahead, given they will be able to compete for premiership points as soon as the decimated front office get the playing roster under the cap.

While the decision is sure to anger Storm fans, Greenberg said he’d deliberately worked hard to avoid repeating that decision, which was made under a previous NRL administration.

“If Parramatta wins every game under the salary cap, I will be very happy,” Greenberg said on Tuesday.

“But they have to comply with the salary cap like every one of the other 15 clubs.

“I watched Melbourne Storm fans and players have to continue to play a season without the ability to accrue points – I thought that was soul-destroying, both for the players and the fans.

“I’ve tried very hard to find a way forward here that Parramatta Eels can take a step forward today.”

The Eels have 10 days to get their house in order ahead of Friday week’s clash with South Sydney at Pirtek Stadium, but even coach Brad Arthur concedes he has no idea how the club can get under the cap in that time.

The club must shed players, with Greenberg saying squad members could not simply all take a pay cut to get under the limit.

To make the finals, the Eels – who have won six of their first nine games this year – will likely need 12 victories in their remaining 15 games, provided their roster is salary-cap compliant.

Greenberg said Parramatta would retain their plus-45 points differential and refused to say if he’d be comfortable with the Eels edging another side out of the top eight on for and against.

Despite affording the Eels an opportunity that the Storm weren’t six years ago, Greenberg said the league had no alternative than to issue Parramatta with its breach notice after finding the club had rorted the cap by $3 million since 2013 and by more than half-a-million alone in 2016.

“This has to stop and it stops today,” he said.

The NRL integrity unit obtained more than 700,000 documents as well as images from computers and mobile phones to uncover the Eels’ alleged breaches.

“The strategies include paying players undisclosed remuneration from the club’s own resources, sourcing third-party payments in breach of the salary-cap rules and arranging with club suppliers to inflate or issue fictitious invoices to raise money that was to be made available to the players,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg also said it was up to police and other authorities to decide if they needed to get involved in the saga.

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