NRL players and officials will be interrogated by the NSW Crime Commission as soon as Thursday as investigations increase into alleged match-fixing.
NSW Police on Wednesday dropped a bombshell on the eve of the NRL finals when the state crime command’s organised crime squad launched strike force Nuralda to determine whether any crimes had been committed.
The revelations come after the crime squad announced in June it had begun examining information into match-fixing claims, with up to three games reportedly to be investigated.
On Wednesday, the inquiry hit a new level.
“Police will work closely with the NSW Crime Commission, and have the full support of the NRL,” a NSW police statement read.
“The investigation is expected to be protracted, with dozens of players, officials and members of the community expected to be interviewed in the coming months.”
Those who don’t speak to the commission can be jailed for up to six months.
Reports in June linked two Manly games – one against South Sydney and the other against Parramatta – to investigations, while a third Sea Eagles match against the Eels this year also came under scrutiny.
Controversial gambling figure Eddie Hayson has welcomed the newly created strike force as he continues efforts to clear his name of reports linking him to match-fixing.
“I hope they go and get 300 of the best detectives they have and, for as long as they need to, go through everything A to Z and finally clear all the innocent people that have been dragged into this mess,” Hayson told the Nine Network.
NRL veteran Peter Wallace on Wednesday backed life bans for players convicted of match-fixing, while former NRL star Preston Campbell admitted he knocked back advances to cook games.
“I was never tempted. It’s against the law,” Campbell said.
“I did, and there’s other players that would’ve had people come to them, and say, kick the first field goal and we’ll go halves. I think for a lot of people, if you’re very desperate, it’s very tempting.”
The NRL has confirmed it will support the strike force investigation.
“We are not going to pre-judge any person associated with the game while this process is under way,” NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said.
“But I repeat my earlier warning that if any person is convicted of match-fixing, they will face a life ban from any involvement in rugby league.”