The addiction that rocked Storm

By Andrew Howie

Turning our readers attention to Australia and a recent scandal with one of the major league clubs.

When the police look to take down a drug ring, they don’t look to pin it on the mid-weight dealer. They look to go all the way to the top. Because, if you take down the top, then you ultimately bring down the lot.

So when the news broke this week that the Melbourne Storm had been breaching the salary cap, I began to read with interest as I could see a deeper motive. Surely they are not the only team guilty of this practice.

Not only was the breach long standing, it was systematic in its approach.  It was so simple. Claim twice for an expense. And use that windfall to fund other activity. No different to claiming travel expenses from your employer and then claiming then back on tax.

I was asked at work by a British colleague to explain what had happened. And as usual I defaulted to an analogy to get my point across. And this was what I said:

“So mate, you know when a kid has no money so he turns to selling drugs so he can afford to live and support a habit? Well that is what happened here. The NRL set a cap on salaries at a level that didn’t allow Melbourne to keep winning. They had a taste of the drug (winning) and they wanted more. So to do so they found a way around the rules. It just so happened that they were smart enough to get away with it for a few years. But then they got caught. And the fall out is big.”

To me, that sums up this situation. And beyond that, I don’t believe that Melbourne is the only team guilty. They are just the head of the drug syndicate that gains the most exposure by bringing them down. Hopefully, this action will cause all other teams to cease the same behavior?

So, with yet another huge scandal dragging the sport of rugby league through the mud, I wonder who is to blame this time?

The last few years it has been the players who have caused the controversy. Much like in other sporting codes such as the Premier League, AFL and the NFL.

Yet this time, the scandal has come from a club that is owned by the company that has broadcasting rights to, and a 50% ownership of, the whole competition.

You will struggle to find a bigger conflict of interest anywhere in sport.

The administration has been actively promoting the fact that the Storm, a franchise set up in a state that has AFL as its passion, has managed to be successful and hugely profitable, all within the rules.

Well that hall of mirrors has now been exposed as nothing more than baseless chat.

In an increasingly competitive market that is professional sport, Rugby League had priced itself out of the market. By setting the cap at a meagre $4.1mil, they were exposed to poaching from the ARU, and foreign competitions.

Although at the root of this problem, the discussion of the salary cap is one for another day. But, this surely needs to be reviewed now given the extent to which the premier league team in the world has gone to, to ensure they continue to win.

Sadly, the biggest losers out of all this are the army of loyal fans who have got behind their team and ridden the wave of success over the last few years.

I was moved to see images of once loyal fans discarding their jerseys in disgust in the wake of this revelation.

Having recently written about people of all walks being united under the same jersey,

this week I have seen these same people united in disgust at the lengths people will go to, to win.