Rugby League

We're 'squeaky clean' in adhering to NRL salary cap: Parramatta Eels director and mayor Paul Garrard

Parramatta lord mayor Paul Garrard, one of the highest-profile directors on the club's embattled board, claims their playing roster has been assembled with "squeaky clean" compliance to the salary cap.

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The NRL is investigating the Eels on a number of fronts, ranging from allegations that third-party payments were not properly disclosed to claims player sponsors were illegally rewarded with free corporate hospitality.

The ongoing scandal has heaped pressure on senior figures, most notably chairman Steve Sharp and his deputy Tom Issa, to stand down while a forensic audit is conducted. However, the pair has no intention of doing so as long-suffering fans wait to learn whether the Eels will be docked competition points over the debacle.

Garrard claimed every contract or TPA fully complied with the salary cap since he came onto the board following the last elections. "At this point in time, with the team we've got on the field, we're squeaky clean on the matter," Garrard said.

"Not only are we at arm's distance [to TPAs], we're at two-arms' distance away from any of that nonsense. I've personally witnessed that in the board where the most stringent protocols are being maintained around that.

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"As a result we've purchased well, we've maintained the salary cap this year, we've been able to do a governance review, we've been able to satisfy the NRL. That's been my brief since coming onto the board. I'm very satisfied we've been able to do that."

Garrard welcomed the NRL's latest audit of Parramatta's books, believing the current board would be cleared of any impropriety.

Confident: Parramatta lord mayor Paul Garrard.
Confident: Parramatta lord mayor Paul Garrard. Photo: Gene Ramirez

"From the last meeting we had, everything I saw had answers to it," said Garrard, who believed previous administrations were behind Parramatta's problems. "I'm very keen to have forensic people look through the accounts because it will highlight some some of the stories beaten up in the press, they can only be determined by a forensic investigation, so I'm keen for that to happen. I'm pleased the club is working with the NRL.

"From what I've seen in my observations and everything I've witnessed across the table, I haven't seen a problem."

Asked specifically about whether current directors were aware of potential conflicts of interest relating to a TPA for Anthony Watmough that is at the centre of NRL investigations, Garrard said: "Those circumstances may involve some people on the board now but not during the term of this board. That's up to better people than I to determine if these issues occurred.

"That's why we need to look at bank accounts. Where did the money come from?"

The NRL is believed to be considering suspending key Eels officials for their roles in the scandal. However, Sharp won't be stepping down willingly. "To the best of my knowledge, we haven't rorted the salary cap," Sharp told Fox Sports. He added: "No, I shouldn't resign at the moment.

"I'm the person and the board I'm working with that's driving the change in our organisation.

"When we got involved two-and-a-half years ago we self-reported to the Office of Liquor and Gaming and the other half of our business because we didn't think things were right. We worked systematically with the NRL throughout this whole process and we're continuing to drive the change."

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