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May 3, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The Reverse Sweep

The forecast for this NRL season is “fine and sunny with no chance of a Storm”. At least, this is the verdict of one of the Facebook groups devoted to the anguish currently being felt by the Melbourne Storm.

The Storm was recently stripped of the 2007 and 2009 premierships, as well as being fined a total of $1.6 million, for “massive, long-term salary cap breaches”. They were also stripped of all points gathered so far in the 2010 NRL season, as well as losing the ability to accrue any (further) points.

Apparently, the NRL authorities were tipped off by bookies, who reacted to successive bets being placed on the Storm to be wooden-spooners, at odds of 250-1. Sportingbet Australia dropped their odds to $1.01, in the process claiming the biggest odds change in history. Other betting agencies followed suit, while TAB Sportsbet kept its market open, until a $40,000 collecting bet was added to by further punters. The revelation that the Storm was to be stripped of all competition points put an end to any betting on the club.

AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou has supported the NRL’s decision to punish the Storm, based on the “very serious” salary cap cheating, which matched his league’s decision to fine Carlton $1 million, as well as stripping them of top draft picks in 2002. The Storm are alleged to have utilised dual-booking, to add $1.7 million of illegal value over five years.

Centrebet suspended betting on the Storm versus Warriors game at the weekend, based on a potential Melbourne player revolt. However, a strong Storm side was fielded, and destroyed the Warriors 40-6, suggesting that the team is not going to fold this season.

There have been differing reactions to the Storm’s calamity, with the Leeds not going to ask to for the 2009 World Club Challenge, while the Manly MP is calling for the 2007 Premiership to be awarded to the Sea Eagles. However, Leeds does have a chance of receiving AUS$83,000 in compensation.

While club bosses back up the NRL’s decision, there are critics, including Collingwood AFL boss Eddie McGuire, who believes the NRL is “destroying the future of Melbourne Storm”, and in the process obliterating the game.

There are rumours aplenty that salary cap breaches are widespread in the NRL, and this has led to further criticism of the punishments, as well as the Storm considering the idea of challenging the decision, on the point gathering at least.

Storm assistant and Kiwis’ coach Stephen Kearney claims to be oblivious and “gobsmacked” to the side’s misdemeanours, and this theory is supported by the NZRL, who remain in full support of Kearney as coach, in the lead-up to the ANZAC test.

In essence, the Storm’s misfortune gives our Warriors a better chance of making the finals, and hence I am biased in supporting the NRL’s decision. However, there is certainly a hush over the league’s integrity as a whole.

[ssba]

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