Parramatta’s playing group are hopeful injury-struck forward Anthony Watmough will be the only person jettisoned from the NRL club as a result of the Eels’ salary cap crisis.
The Eels have been told they need to shave $570,000 off their player payments to be under the salary cap for Friday’s clash against South Sydney. If Parramatta can’t do that, any premiership points they earn against the Rabbitohs will likely be docked as part of the NRL’s sanctions against the club for their alleged salary cap breaches.
Watmough has said he would retire due to a chronic knee injury if that alleviates the Eels’ situation. The former representative forward’s yearly salary is said to be around $650,000 and it is up to the NRL as to how much of that will come off the cap.
Eels club captain Tim Mannah said at training on Sunday he hoped Watmough’s retirement would in itself make the club salary cap compliant again. “At the moment we all have our eggs in that one basket,” Mannah said.
“Because it is not like we are trying to do anything outside the rules. He has done an injury that has cost him his career, we are just hoping that can get sorted sooner rather than later and hopefully that is all that needs to happen.”
The Eels have registered papers with the NRL for Watmough’s injury to be considered as career ending. He suffered the injury at pre-season in February and any player payments could be backdated to then.
Eels back-rower Beau Scott said he wasn’t sure if any players other than Watmough would have to exit Parramatta to squeeze them under the salary cap. “I don’t really know, I guess we will wait and see,” he said.
A final decision on sanctions from the NRL, which include provisional penalties of a 12-point deduction, a $1 million fine and the deregistration of five officials, is expected to be handed down in mid-June.
Mannah said those five officials – chairman Steve Sharp, chief executive John Boulous, head of football Daniel Anderson, deputy chairman Tom Issa and director Peter Serrao – should be afforded some respect and the opportunity to defend themselves against the allegations.
The five will return to the NSW Supreme Court on Monday as they challenge the legality of the suspensions handed down to them by the NRL, who say they are key figures in the Eels’ alleged salary cap rorting that blew out their player talent spend by $3 million since 2013.
“These guys are human as well, they deserve a bit of respect and to be given the benefit of doubt until the findings are handed down,” Mannah said. “It is easy for you or I to point the finger and say what we think is going wrong but unless we have all the details and know exactly what happened there is no real point in us commentating [further].
“When you are in their position it is a lot harder because they obviously know a lot more than we do.”
Mannah said players had been addressed by members of the club’s embattled board since NRL CEO Todd Greenberg informed them of the provisional sanctions laid against the Eels on Tuesday over allegations of salary cap indiscretions.
Parramatta have until 3 June to respond to the breach notice they were given on Tuesday. It is expected the NRL will make their final decision on the matter two weeks after that.