third party deals, salary cap cheating, club bosses polled, Billy Slater, best coach, Nathan Cleary


ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys has urged club bosses to speak up and “be a whistleblower” if there’s any evidence that rivals are cheating the salary cap.

A poll conducted by The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed an alarming stat in relation to illegal third party deals.

The Herald approached 45 CEOs, chairmen and general managers across the game with a total of 33 agreeing to participate in the poll.

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One of the questions was: How many third-party deals do you believe clubs are illegally facilitating compared to five years ago?

47 per cent answers ‘about the same’, 34 per cent answered ‘less’, 16 per cent answered ‘more’ and only three per cent believe ‘it doesn’t happen.’

The latter is a stark change from when clubs were asked in 2022 where 30 per cent believed there’s no third party deals being facilitated in the game.

V’landys has full faith in the NRL’s salary cap auditors but as a result of the poll has urged any club bosses that may have evidence of cheating to speak to him.

“In everything you do, you base decisions on evidence. Someone give me evidence,” he told the Herald.

“A lot of people base it on a gut-feeling or emotion. If you have evidence, bring it forward and we will deal with it.

“It’s easy to be emotional about something, but if you have evidence, be a whistleblower. Come forward.

“The integrity of the sport is paramount. No one has come forward.

“I have total confidence in my salary cap auditors. They are ferocious. They are very hard. Sometimes I think they’re too hard, that’s how diligent and ferocious they are.

“If anyone has any evidence, come forward.”

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The poll also covered hot topics like the best coach in the NRL, the most sought-after player and predictions for best signing of 2024.

Craig Bellamy still comfortably leads the charge for best coach with 42 per cent, while Penrith’s Ivan Cleary polled second with 24 per cent after guiding his side to a three-peat. Trent Robinson and Wayne Bennett tied third with six per cent each. The remaining 22 per cent voted for the ‘other’ category.


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Meanwhile, 63 per cent of clubs would pounce on Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary if they could sign any player in the NRL. Broncos superstar Reece Walsh came second (13 per cent) followed by Rabbitohs duo Cameron Murray and Latrell Mitchell, who both had 6.5 per cent of the support. 11 per cent voted ‘other’.

19 per cent of bosses believe Luke Brooks will be the best signing of 2024 after he switched to Manly from the Tigers, closely followed by new Bulldogs and Rabbitohs centres Stephen Crichton and Jack Wighton (16 per cent each). Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (14 per cent) and Tom Flegler (13 per cent) also polled well.

Perhaps one of the most interesting stats to come out of the poll is the support for Queensland Origin coach Billy Slater. He’s never coached an NRL side but of all the options that don’t currently hold a head coaching role in clubland, Slater is top pick at 32 per cent.

That’s ahead of former Titans coach Justin Holbrook and premiership-winning coach Michael Maguire, who received just 6.5 per cent each.

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The ‘other’ option was the second most popular with a 25.5 per cent result, followed by Josh Hannay (13 per cent) and Kristian Woolf (10 per cent).

Panthers enforcer Moses Leota was voted the game’s most underrated player. Nick Meaney, Jacob Preston, Wayde Egan, Jeremy Marshall-King and J’maine Hopgood were also in the mix.

An overwhelming 91 per cent of bosses believe Origin rules should not be changed to allow more players from other nations to feature, while 61 per cent are supportive of taking an Origin game to Auckland in 2027.

And 37 per cent are backing the Rabbitohs as the team from last season’s bottom eight most likely to return to finals this year.


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