By The Spotter
In the space of just a week we have been privy to a perfect five superb spectacles from five NRL Finals matches, but while the shop window is dazzling, it might soon shatter into tiny pieces…
Look beyond the disreputable Snapchat photo-op with Jarryd Hayne and his gangster mate and see that there is far more at play than in just the hubris of that incident and other recent ones with members of the Australian underworld and their seemingly growing fraternity with NRL players.
If it is not already a bad enough look for those players concerned (even though they obviously don’t think so), for the reputation of the NRL and their ability to attract and even keep sponsors, it is disastrous. Think of all the painstaking work done by Head Office in creating initiatives such as The Women in League Round and the concept of the Indigenous team in the All-star match, only to be railroaded by some of their employees becoming personal friends of convicted and in many cases violent, felons.
This is certainly no troll of the Aussies and it could just be that our own garden isn’t as gloriously lilywhite as we had all thought. On that tack, imagine for about two seconds if any high or reasonably high-profile players from any main sport here were outed for keeping similar bad company. I guarantee that almost everyone with at least a passing interest in sport would be aghast, affronted or incredulous, or quite likely combination of all three. And the talkback lines would run smoking hot…for not hours, days. If nothing else it would show that we still seem to care deeply here about the integrity of sport in its many guises.
Read more closely between the lines of those unseemly mateships being cultivated across the ditch however, and there is a far bigger issue staring one in the mush; you don’t need to be a sleuth in the realm of Hercule Poirot to figure out the link, either- and by that I am not only meaning the potential damaging gambling habits of individual players.
Nope, it may be a whole lot worse than that. These bonds have not suddenly been forged out of thin air, rather they are the result of professional gamblers and quite probably money launderers into the bargain moving more and more into the hub of the game itself, namely becoming an influence on the personal and professional lives of the players. And just how do these underworld sporting overlords guarantee their living? By rewarding others (the player) to do a bit of dirty work for them in order to make a small fortune. The task of the player as the middle-man? To arrange it so that ‘a result’ is made foolproof. This being match-fixing of course.
And in light of the huge operation launched just over a week ago by the New South Wales Police Strike Force and the NSW Crime Commission, ‘Operation Nuralda’, set up to investigate alleged instances of match-fixing and ‘cheating at gambling’, NRL Head Office and Todd Greenberg in particular should be waking up in the dead of night in a cold sweat over what could be revealed in time. If they are not, then they shouldn’t be in their jobs, quite frankly.
I wonder what Warriors chief and former head of the NRL Integrity Unit, Jim Doyle makes of all these goings-on? Maintaining an open-mind it would seem, in light of his relative silence over the events of the past few months and his keenness in having Kieran Foran on board. And when I interviewed him back in February on the very topic of match-fixing, he insinuated that I might be barking up an oak tree rather than a pine tree in asserting the problem of match-fixing was perhaps all too real in the NRL. Did he at that time hold too much confidence in the capability of the Integrity Unit to weed out match-fixing before it got anywhere near fruition? You be the judge:
Whatever tranpires from now, it is getting to be a bad look already for the NRL. Worst case scenario could be that they would lose practically everything- fans, sponsors and the whole competition as we now know it.
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