The activities of player managers are to be
given some long overdue scrutiny as a result of serious allegations made
against one of rugby league’s most prominent player managers.

Gavin Orr manages a stable of leading NRL
players, such as Sonny Bill Williams from the Canterbury Bulldogs. But his credibility, and possibly his
career, is on the line as a result of a reported investigation into contract
negotiations concerning one of his players, Fuifui Moimoi.

Today’s Daily Telegraph reports that the Parramatta Eels CEO, Denis Fitzgerald, has made an official
complaint alleging that Orr forged the signature of Moimoi on a letter of
intent with the Melbourne Storm before the player re-signed with Parramatta.

The matter will be examined by the NRL
player manager accreditation committee, formed last year when the NRL finally
got around to imposing some scrutiny on player managers – who are arguably
among the most influential group in the game, as they are in other codes,
notably the AFL.

The committee was initially regarded as
being a tame cat but now that it is headed by the respected Sydney barrister,
Geoff Bellew, I have confidence it will show some teeth – even if the
accreditation system is not as strong as it could be.

The rather interesting world of player
managers might get some much needed attention and scrutiny as a result of this
investigation. And not before time.

The racing industry in recent years has
moved to impose tight controls on the activities of jockey managers, even
limiting the number of jockeys any manager can be retained by.

The potential for conflict-of-interest
situations arising when player managers represent a swag of players all negotiating contracts at the one time
are enormous.

And whenever players behave badly, do their
highly paid managers – who take a cut from sign on fees, contract payments and
even sponsorships/endorsements – put their hand up to accept some
responsibility? Never.

Gavin Orr is entitled to the presumption of
innocence. But on the basis of documents allegedly witnessed by the Daily
Telegraph
he is going to need a very good lawyer.

But the scrutiny should not stop with Orr.
It is high time the whole player manager process was subjected to more than
just accreditation. It needs to be transparent, and managers need to be made
accountable for more than just doing contract deals. They need to accept some responsibility
for the behaviour and the post-football career paths of the players who reward
them handsomely.

It is true that some – most notably former
players who have become player managers – regard career development as part of their
role. But many don’t, and that is not good enough.

Peter Fray

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