When the Fine Cotton racehorse scandal came
spectacularly unstuck 20 years ago, stewards, assisted by the fraud squad,
painstakingly tracked down not only the ring leaders but everyone who was
knowingly in on the sting.

As a result, Bill and Robbie Waterhouse were
disqualified for long periods, as were half a dozen other racing identities who
profited from the sting. Even a Catholic Priest, known to some of the ring
leaders, was rubbed out for driving down to the Appin dogs to back Fine Cotton.

The Fine Cotton analogy is relevant to the
scandal surrounding what appears to be systemic salary cap rorting by the New
Zealand Warriors. If the allegations are confirmed, then for at least the last
two seasons, the Warriors have been a “ring-in”. Just like Fine Cotton. The
only difference is Fine Cotton’s markings were doctored – the Warriors are
accused of doctoring player contracts and payments.

The National Rugby League needs to treat
this matter the same way racing stewards – and the police – treated the Fine
Cotton scandal. It will not be good enough merely to fine
the club, or even dock the team a few points in advance.

If the NRL wants to rub out systemic
rorting of the salary cap – which gives offending clubs an illegal and unfair
advantage in the premiership – then it needs to pursue officials, players, AND
player managers/agents who were knowingly in on it.

The Daily Telegraph reveals today that one prominent player agent is concerned the club might lose
points in advance this season. Tough luck! The agent in question manages no
less than NINE Warriors players. On the basis of the precedent set when the
NRL heavily penalised the Bulldogs in 2002 for salary cap rorting, the Warriors
cannot expect to be shown much leniency.

The NRL needs to be as enthusiastic about
rubbing out rorting of the salary cap as racing stewards were in persecuting
the perpetrators of the Fine Cotton sting – including those who knew about it and
benefited from it.

This is one case where the deterrent is as
important as the punishment.

Peter Fray

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