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The inside story of exposing cap cheats

Date

The Storm were a club in disgrace just two years ago when their salary cap rorting was brought to light by Adrian Proszenko, who won a coveted Walkley Award for breaking the story. Today, Melbourne are on the verge of redemption.

Facing the media ... Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy reads a statement in 2010 regarding the future of the club in light of the penalties handed out by the NRL for systematic cheating of the salary cap.

Facing the media ... Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy reads a statement in 2010 regarding the future of the club in light of the penalties handed out by the NRL for systematic cheating of the salary cap. Photo: Paul Rovere

Sitting on Brian Waldron's bookshelf is the unpublished manuscript of what really happened.

All the revelations - the dodgy deals, the cover-ups, the multifaceted roles of News Ltd in the saga and, the most important one of all, who knew. When he said in April 2010, in his only public interview since the rorting was exposed, that ''I am … prepared to give the entire background to Rupert Murdoch so that he has a full understanding of how his company has managed … the Melbourne Storm'', those fearing they would be named and shamed assumed the foetal position.

Those close to the man fingered as ''the chief rat'', having witnessed his professional life unravel, believe he reconsidered for fear of inflicting the same professional and personal pain on the culpable. Call it honour among thieves, if you will. But, while he wouldn't comment when contacted by The Sun-Herald during the week, it's understood there will be a day when his story is laid bare.

Regeneration ... Storm players celebrate last weekend's preliminary final win over Manly.

Regeneration ... Storm players celebrate last weekend's preliminary final win over Manly. Photo: Getty Images

The fact that the story, of a News-owned club rorting the system in a competition half-owned by the media company, came to light at all is extraordinary in itself. On Monday, January 18, 2010, Fairfax received an anonymous email titled ''Melbourne Storm exclusive'' from an insider promising to deliver the scoop on financial irregularities, issues regarding Waldron's tenure and, of most interest, claims of ''salary cap rorting''.

Given that journalists receive bogus tip-offs semi-regularly, usually agenda-driven campaigns from rival clubs, this was not out of the ordinary. However, it soon became apparent the information, while difficult to prove, was credible.

Another source provided a vital clue that something was amiss, which led to headlines almost two months later - that salary cap auditor Ian Schubert was concerned about several Storm contracts, including one struck between Fox Sports and star player Cameron Smith. Although it was the back-page lead of this paper on March 28, few knew how the story would snowball.

Waldron continually denied anything was amiss and most of the media attention at the time was on the Gold Coast Titans and claims their co-captain Scott Prince had a house built by a former sponsor for free. Those allegations were denied and subsequently disproved. As one insider said: ''If the NRL want to find a salary cap cheat, they're looking in the wrong place.'

Of course, everything - well, at least most of the story - came out on April 22. Waldron, having initially denied any wrongdoing to myself and countless others, finally came clean as the walls closed in.

That date could well have sounded the death knell of the club. Years of toil by the players, coaching staff and officials proved literally pointless as premierships minor and major were stripped away. There were fears that rugby league's Victorian experiment would be abandoned altogether.

''The Emperor'', former Parramatta chief exercutive Denis Fitzgerald, had long railed against the Storm and already called for the club to fold. He almost got his wish.

The NRL was strongly condemned for allowing News to commission the final investigation and then only releasing some of the detail publicly. The Sun-Herald published the names of seven of the players who had received illegal payments, based on information from the initial source, well before Deloitte handed down its findings.

The former Herald Sun editor Bruce Guthrie, who famously took News to court and won, described the cap scandal as a direct result of the media company's win-at-all-costs culture.

The NRL's then chief executive, David Gallop, was in an impossible position. His hardline punishments erased fears the game's conflicted interests would result in a light punishment. The penalties were swift and brutal - those involved in Melbourne claim overly so.

''It's been well documented, we have,'' forward Ryan Hoffman said, when asked if the players felt they were still the premiers of the 2007 and 2009 seasons. ''We feel that way and we're allowed to feel that way.''

The cost paid by some is far greater than many know. The pregnant partner of one of the sacked officials lost their unborn child as a result of the stress. Others who have never spoken about their involvement are considering telling their side of the story.

Sacked independent director Peter Maher, a radio host in Melbourne, believes public perceptions will change when the full details come to light.

''At some point or other the way those decisions were determined will be made public,'' he said. ''Some of the people involved are starting to talk quite openly about how those decisions were made and how wrong those decisions were. That will all come to the forefront. When that occurs, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if those decisions were reversed. Due process was not adhered to.''

Whether they are now the beneficiaries or the victims of being over the cap for so many years is still a point of debate. In his brilliant ''Stormland'' column last week, the Sun-Herald's Malcolm Knox described the Storm as ''cap clean now as an athlete who uses drugs to build his strength but is clean on competition day''. However, due credit must be given to the club's ability to rebuild. Their Fab Four have become the Big Three, with a team of discards and journeymen assembled to fit alongside Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.

Other vital cogs in the Storm machine have taken considerably less money to remain under the tutelage of Craig Bellamy. There is no better example than Ryan Hinchcliffe. Parramatta offered the Storm forward, who was on $180,000 at the time, a starting spot and a four-year contract that would have netted him about $1.6 million with third-party payments. The Storm's revised deal didn't come close, but he took it anyway.

''I haven't heard of a player stopping for the amount of money he could have earned elsewhere,'' Bellamy said when Hinchcliffe recommitted in June. ''It shows the character of Hinch.''

When asked whether today's grand final appearance vindicated his decision to stay put, Hinchcliffe replied: ''When I think about that decision now I know I've made the right decision. It's something I looked very seriously at. It was very tempting but in my heart of hearts I knew I wanted to be a Melbourne Stormer. I have a great love for this club and this team.''

That love also extends to Bellamy. One of his closest confidants, football manager Frank Ponissi, spoke about the coach's disappointment after being bundled out of last year's competition by the Warriors. There were even concerns the crushing defeat could send the club backwards.

''They were my immediate thoughts last year,'' he said. ''He was shattered. We went on a trip, myself and a few other staff, to the US in October. That's when he got his spring back. Talking about different ideas we were going to bring back to the club. I saw quickly how that fire came back in the belly.''

Petra Fawcett, another of the sacked independent directors, also spoke of ''Bellyache'' when asked for her reflection on the club's journey to ANZ Stadium today.

''I think the big story is in the coach,'' she said. ''He's inspirational in my eyes. He is fundamentally the reason they are where they are today.

''They have a strong leadership group within the team and they have moved on.''

Twitter -@proshenks

NRL Season 2015

Round 1
Thu, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 6 vs SOU 36 Report Stats
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 42 vs MAN 12 Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs WAR 16:30HS
GCT vs WST 19:00Cbus Super Stadium
NQL vs SYD 21:001300 Smiles Stadium
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN vs CBY 16:00Pepper Stadium
CRO vs CBR 18:30Remondis Stadium
Mon, 09 MarTimes shown AEDT
STG vs MEL 19:00Jubilee Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBY vs PAR 19:35ANZ
CRO vs BRI 20:35Remondis Stadium
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN vs GCT 16:30Carrington Park
MAN vs MEL 19:00BO
NQL vs NEW 21:001300 Smiles Stadium
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU vs SYD 16:00ANZ
CBR vs WAR 18:30GIO Stadium
Mon, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST vs STG 19:00CSS
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN vs CBY 19:35BO
BRI vs NQL 20:35SUN
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
WAR vs PAR 15:00MSS
CBR vs STG 17:30GIO Stadium
MEL vs CRO 19:30AAMI
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU vs WST 16:00ANZ
GCT vs NEW 18:30Cbus Super Stadium
Mon, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs PEN 19:00AS
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR vs SOU 19:35Pirtek Stadium
WST vs CBY 19:35ANZ
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs PEN 15:00HS
CRO vs GCT 17:30Remondis Stadium
STG vs MAN 19:30WIN
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
WAR vs BRI 12:00MSS
SYD vs CBR 14:00AS
Mon, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
NQL vs MEL 19:001300 Smiles Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
CBY vs SOU 16:00ANZ
GCT vs BRI 20:35Cbus Super Stadium
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MAN vs CBR 17:30To Be Confirmed
NEW vs STG 19:30HS
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CRO 16:00AS
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR vs WST 15:00ANZ
MEL vs WAR 17:00AAMI
PEN vs NQL 19:00Pepper Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 19:35SUN
CRO vs NEW 19:35Remondis Stadium
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR vs GCT 15:00Pirtek Stadium
WAR vs WST 17:30MSS
PEN vs MAN 19:30Pepper Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CBR vs MEL 14:00GIO Stadium
STG vs CBY 16:00ANZ
Mon, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU vs NQL 19:00ANZ
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY vs MAN 19:35ANZ
STG vs BRI 19:35Jubilee Oval
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
GCT vs PEN 15:00Cbus Super Stadium
NQL vs WAR 17:301300 Smiles Stadium
MEL vs SYD 19:30AAMI
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
WST vs CBR 14:00VAS
NEW vs PAR 16:00HS
Mon, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
CRO vs SOU 19:00Remondis Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY vs WST 19:45ANZ
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
WAR vs GCT 12:00MSS
NEW vs NQL 14:00HS
SYD vs STG 16:00AS
MEL vs MAN 18:15AAMI
BRI vs PAR 20:00SUN
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
PEN vs CRO 14:00Pepper Stadium
SOU vs CBR 16:00Barlow Park
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs PEN 19:35SUN
SYD vs WST 19:35AS
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR vs GCT 15:00GIO Stadium
CRO vs WAR 17:30Remondis Stadium
NQL vs CBY 19:301300 Smiles Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN vs NEW 14:00BO
PAR vs MEL 16:00Pirtek Stadium
Mon, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU vs STG 19:00ANZ
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CBY vs SYD 19:35ANZ
NQL vs BRI 19:351300 Smiles Stadium
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR vs WAR 15:00Pirtek Stadium
GCT vs CRO 17:30Cbus Super Stadium
MEL vs SOU 19:30AAMI
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
STG vs CBR 14:00WIN
NEW vs WST 16:00HS
Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN vs PEN 19:00BO
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU vs PAR 19:45ANZ
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
WST vs NQL 19:30CSS
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR vs CBY 16:00GIO Stadium
Mon, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
NEW vs BRI 19:00HS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
PEN vs PAR 19:45Pepper Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
GCT vs SOU 15:00Cbus Super Stadium
CBR vs BRI 17:30GIO Stadium
NQL vs MAN 19:301300 Smiles Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
WAR vs NEW 14:00MSS
STG vs CRO 16:00Jubilee Oval
Mon, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 19:00AS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs MAN 19:35SUN
WST vs GCT 19:35VAS
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW vs CBR 15:00HS
SOU vs WAR 17:30nib Stadium
PEN vs MEL 19:30Pepper Stadium
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CRO vs SYD 16:00Remondis Stadium
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY vs STG 16:00ANZ
PAR vs NQL 19:00Pirtek Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
WST vs SOU 19:45ANZ
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
WAR vs SYD 18:00MSS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT vs CBY 16:00Cbus Super Stadium
Mon, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs PAR 19:00AAMI
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
MAN vs WST 19:45BO
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NQL 15:00GIO Stadium
GCT vs WAR 17:30Cbus Super Stadium
CBY vs PEN 19:30ANZ
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW vs CRO 14:00HS
MEL vs BRI 16:00AAMI
Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
STG vs SYD 19:00AS
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs NEW 19:35SUN
SOU vs MAN 19:35ANZ
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
WAR vs CBR 15:00MSS
NQL vs CRO 17:301300 Smiles Stadium
PAR vs STG 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs GCT 14:00AS
WST vs PEN 16:00VAS
Mon, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY vs MEL 19:00Belmore Sports Ground
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs SOU 19:45Pepper Stadium
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
STG vs NQL 19:30WIN
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN vs CRO 16:00BO
Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
WST vs PAR 19:00ANZ
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NEW 19:45GIO Stadium
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs SYD 17:30Pepper Stadium
CBY vs BRI 19:30ANZ
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
WAR vs MEL 14:00MSS
CRO vs STG 16:00Remondis Stadium
Mon, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
GCT vs MAN 19:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
PAR vs CBY 19:35ANZ
MEL vs PEN 19:35AAMI
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs CRO 15:00GIO Stadium
NEW vs GCT 17:30HS
STG vs SOU 19:30SCG
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WAR 14:00AS
BRI vs WST 16:00SUN
Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN vs NQL 19:00BO
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI vs GCT 19:35SUN
WST vs SYD 19:35ANZ
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
WAR vs MAN 15:00MSS
SOU vs NEW 17:30ANZ
MEL vs STG 19:30AAMI
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs CBR 14:00Pepper Stadium
CBY vs CRO 16:00Belmore Sports Ground
Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL vs PAR 19:001300 Smiles Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Thu, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
WAR vs CRO 22:00MSS
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL vs CBR 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
STG vs NEW 00:00Jubilee Oval
SOU vs PEN 00:00ANZ
SYD vs CBY 00:00AS
MAN vs BRI 00:00To Be Confirmed
WST vs MEL 00:00VAS
GCT vs PAR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Thu, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
WAR vs STG 22:00MSS
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CBY 00:00SUN
NEW vs SYD 00:00HS
CBR vs WST 00:00GIO Stadium
MAN vs SOU 00:00BO
CRO vs NQL 00:00Remondis Stadium
MEL vs GCT 00:00AAMI
PAR vs PEN 00:30TIO
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STG 00:00SUN
CBY vs GCT 00:00To Be Confirmed
NQL vs SOU 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
PEN vs WAR 00:00Pepper Stadium
CBR vs MAN 00:00GIO Stadium
SYD vs PAR 00:00AS
CRO vs MEL 00:00Remondis Stadium
WST vs NEW 00:00CSS
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Wed, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
WAR vs NQL 22:00MSS
Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
STG vs PEN 00:00WIN
SOU vs CBY 00:00ANZ
SYD vs BRI 00:00AS
MAN vs PAR 00:00BO
CRO vs WST 00:00Remondis Stadium
MEL vs NEW 00:00AAMI
GCT vs CBR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
PAR vs CRO 00:00Pirtek Stadium
NEW vs CBY 00:00HS
SOU vs BRI 00:00AS
CBR vs PEN 00:00GIO Stadium
MAN vs SYD 00:00BO
MEL vs NQL 00:00AAMI
WST vs WAR 00:00CSS
GCT vs STG 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI vs MEL 00:00SUN
CBY vs WAR 00:00ANZ
NQL vs GCT 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
STG vs WST 00:00ANZ
PAR vs CBR 00:00Pirtek Stadium
PEN vs NEW 00:00Pepper Stadium
SYD vs SOU 00:00AS
CRO vs MAN 00:00Remondis Stadium
View All Fixtures
NRL Ladder 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D Pts
South Sydney Rabbitohs 1 1 0 0 2
Parramatta Eels 1 1 0 0 2
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 1 0 1 0 0
Brisbane Broncos 1 0 1 0 0
Canberra Raiders 0 0 0 0 0
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 0 0 0 0 0
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 0 0 0 0 0
Gold Coast Titans 0 0 0 0 0
View all
 
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