The National Rugby League cannot possibly show the kind of mercy to the New Zealand Warriors that club officials are demanding. Nor can it be swayed by threats that a heavy penalty might damage the game in New Zealand or destroy the morale of Warriors players. Later today the NRL will meet with Warriors officials to get their response to the serious allegations of salary cap rorting, and almost certainly other malpractices, made against the club.

That the Warriors are guilty of substantial salary cap and related breaches is not at issue – though the full extent of the breaches and possible non-salary cap infringements is yet to be determined.

The Warriors are privately owned. The monetary only penalty the Warriors and NZRL are demanding would be woefully inadequate – and leave the NRL open to the allegation that there is one standard for the New Zealand based team, and another for a Sydney based team (the Bulldogs).

The NRL won’t deduct 2005 points or 2004 points. That would be merely fiddling with the record books. It’s more likely the Warriors will become the only team in history to start the season with less than zero points – probably minus six.

But there might be a more appropriate penalty. The NRL salary cap for 2006 is $3.366 million per club. For the Warriors, the NRL could reduce the salary cap by, say, $500,000. That would require the club to cut payments to all players – or players whose conditions breach the salary cap – by around 15%.

Such a penalty would have a genuine impact. And it might have a genuine impact on two of the causes of salary cap rorting – player greed and the dubious activities of some player managers/agents. It is an option worth considering – and one that would send a signal that the game’s bosses are serious about restoring the integrity of the salary cap.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey