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The inside story of exposing cap cheats


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Sitting on Brian Waldron's bookshelf is the unpublished manuscript of what really happened.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

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NRL Season 2015

Round 1
Thu, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 6vs SOU 36 Report Stats
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 42vs MAN 12 Report Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 24vs NZW 14 Report Stats
GCT 18vs WST 19 Report Stats
NQL 4vs SYD 28 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 24vs CBY 18 Report Stats
CRO 20vs CBR 24 Report Stats
Mon, 09 MarTimes shown AEDT
STG 4vs MEL 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBY 32vs PAR 12 Report Stats
CRO 2vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 40vs GCT 0 Report Stats
MAN 24vs MEL 22 Stats
NQL 14vs NEW 16 Report Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 34vs SYD 26 Stats
CBR 6vs NZW 18 Report Stats
Mon, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST 22vs STG 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN 12vs CBY 16 Report Stats
BRI 44vs NQL 22 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 29vs PAR 16 Report Stats
CBR 20vs STG 22 Report Stats
MEL 36vs CRO 18 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 20vs WST 6 Report Stats
GCT 18vs NEW 20 Report Stats
Mon, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 20vs PEN 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 29vs SOU 16 Report Stats
WST 24vs CBY 25 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 26vs PEN 14 Report Stats
CRO 22vs GCT 24 Report Stats
STG 12vs MAN 4 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 16vs BRI 24 Report Stats
SYD 34vs CBR 6 Report Stats
Mon, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
NQL 18vs MEL 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
CBY 17vs SOU 18 Report Stats
GCT 16vs BRI 26 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MAN 16vs CBR 29 Report Stats
NEW 0vs STG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD 12vs CRO 20 Report Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 6vs WST 22 Report Stats
MEL 30vs NZW 14 Report Stats
PEN 10vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 22vs SYD 18 Report Stats
CRO 22vs NEW 6 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 16vs GCT 38 Report Stats
NZW 32vs WST 22 Report Stats
PEN 22vs MAN 12 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CBR 10vs MEL 14 Report Stats
STG 31vs CBY 6 Report Stats
Mon, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU 12vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 28vs MAN 16 Report Stats
STG 12vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
GCT 32vs PEN 6 Report Stats
NQL 28vs NZW 24 Report Stats
MEL 17vs SYD 16 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
WST 22vs CBR 30 Report Stats
NEW 22vs PAR 28 Report Stats
Mon, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
CRO 18vs SOU 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 14vs WST 38 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
NZW 28vs GCT 32 Report Stats
NEW 24vs NQL 26 Report Stats
SYD 12vs STG 14 Report Stats
MEL 10vs MAN 12 Stats
BRI 28vs PAR 16 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
PEN 26vs CRO 18 Stats
SOU 22vs CBR 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 8vs PEN 5 Report Stats
SYD 36vs WST 4 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR 56vs GCT 16 Stats
CRO 16vs NZW 20 Stats
NQL 23vs CBY 16 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 30vs NEW 10 Stats
PAR 10vs MEL 28 Stats
Mon, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 16vs STG 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CBY 10vs SYD 24 Stats
NQL 31vs BRI 20 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR 13vs NZW 17 Report Stats
GCT 22vs CRO 23 Report Stats
MEL 16vs SOU 12 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
STG 32vs CBR 18 Report Stats
NEW 22vs WST 12 Stats
Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 10vs PEN 11 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 14vs PAR 12 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
WST 0vs NQL 8 Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR 34vs CBY 41 Stats
Mon, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
NEW 18vs BRI 31 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
PEN 20vs PAR 26 Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
GCT 16vs SOU 22 Report Stats
CBR 12vs BRI 24 Stats
NQL 18vs MAN 14 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
NZW 24vs NEW 20 Stats
STG 42vs CRO 6 Stats
Mon, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 24vs MEL 2 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI 44vs MAN 10 Report Stats
WST 20vs GCT 27 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW 22vs CBR 44 Stats
SOU 36vs NZW 4 Stats
PEN 0vs MEL 20 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CRO 10vs SYD 4 Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY 29vs STG 16 Stats
PAR 30vs NQL 36 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
WST 34vs SOU 6 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW 21vs SYD 25 Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT 28vs CBY 14 Stats
Mon, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 22vs PAR 26 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
MAN 30vs WST 20 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CBR 20vs NQL 21 Report Stats
GCT 14vs NZW 36 Report Stats
CBY 24vs PEN 12 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW 28vs CRO 30 Report Stats
MEL 12vs BRI 14 Report Stats
Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
STG 14vs SYD 19 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI 44vs NEW 22 Stats
SOU 20vs MAN 8 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW 30vs CBR 8 Stats
NQL 18vs CRO 24 Report Stats
PAR 16vs STG 12 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 20vs GCT 10 Stats
WST 12vs PEN 35 Stats
Mon, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY 20vs MEL 4 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 20vs SOU 6 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
STG 12vs NQL 18 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN 28vs CRO 16 Report Stats
Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
WST 16vs PAR 28 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR 36vs NEW 22 Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 4vs SYD 24 Stats
CBY 8vs BRI 16 Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW 28vs MEL 14 Report Stats
CRO 28vs STG 8 Report Stats
Mon, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
GCT 6vs MAN 38 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
PAR 4vs CBY 28 Report Stats
MEL 52vs PEN 10 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR 20vs CRO 21 Report Stats
NEW 30vs GCT 2 Report Stats
STG 8vs SOU 24 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 24vs NZW 0 Report Stats
BRI 42vs WST 16 Stats
Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN 12vs NQL 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI 34vs GCT 0 Report Stats
WST 8vs SYD 33 Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW 12vs MAN 32 Stats
MEL 22vs STG 4 Stats
SOU 52vs NEW 6 Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 24vs CBR 34 Report Stats
CBY 16vs CRO 18 Report Stats
Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL 46vs PAR 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 38vs CBY 28 Report Stats
WST 34vs MEL 16 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW 14vs CRO 18 Stats
NQL 32vs CBR 24 Stats
MAN 44vs BRI 14 Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
STG 46vs NEW 24 Stats
SOU 20vs PEN 16 Report Stats
Mon, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
GCT 24vs PAR 14 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 16vs CBY 18 Report Stats
MAN 28vs SOU 8 Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW 0vs STG 36 Stats
CRO 30vs NQL 18 Stats
PAR 10vs PEN 4 Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 36vs GCT 14 Report Stats
NEW 22vs SYD 38 Report Stats
Mon, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
CBR 18vs WST 20 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
NQL 18vs SOU 31 Stats
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 32vs STG 6 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
WST 18vs NEW 24 Stats
PEN 24vs NZW 10 Stats
SYD 28vs PAR 18 Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
CBR 24vs MAN 26 Stats
CBY 36vs GCT 14 Report Stats
Mon, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
CRO 2vs MEL 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
STG 19vs PEN 12 Report Stats
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
SOU 18vs CBY 32 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
CRO 40vs WST 18 Report Stats
NZW 16vs NQL 50 Report Stats
SYD 12vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
GCT 28vs CBR 12 Stats
MAN 16vs PAR 20 Report Stats
Mon, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 6vs NEW 20 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
SOU 12vs BRI 47 Report Stats
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
MAN 10vs SYD 46 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
PAR 28vs CRO 35 Stats
NEW 18vs CBY 20 Stats
MEL 14vs NQL 6 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
WST 50vs NZW 16 Report Stats
GCT 28vs STG 26 Stats
Mon, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
CBR 34vs PEN 18 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI 8vs MEL 15 Report Stats
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 30vs SOU 0 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
PEN 30vs NEW 12 Stats
STG 32vs WST 30 Stats
NQL 42vs GCT 12 Stats
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
PAR 24vs CBR 28 Stats
CRO 12vs MAN 14 Stats
CBY 26vs NZW 22 Stats
View All Fixtures
Telstra Premiership Finals Round 1
Fri, 11 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 18vs MEL 20 Report Stats
Sat, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
CBY 11vs STG 10 Report Stats
BRI 16vs NQL 12 Report Stats
Sun, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
CRO 28vs SOU 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Telstra Premiership Finals Round 2
Fri, 18 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 38vs CBY 12 Report Stats
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
NQL 39vs CRO 0 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Telstra Premiership Finals Round 3
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI 31vs SYD 12 Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL 12vs NQL 32 Stats
View All Fixtures
Telstra Premiership Finals Round 4
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI 16vs NQL 17 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
NRL Ladder 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D Pts
Sydney Roosters 24 18 6 0 40
Brisbane Broncos 24 17 7 0 38
North Queensland Cowboys 24 17 7 0 38
Melbourne Storm 24 14 10 0 32
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 24 14 10 0 32
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 24 14 10 0 32
South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 13 11 0 30
St George-Illawarra Dragons 24 12 12 0 28
View all

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