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NRL match-fixing controversy as police warn of pending corruption

Brace yourselves NRL punters — things are about to get crazy.

Again.

Just a few weeks after the Parramatta Eels were sprung cheating the salary cap, a police investigation could unveil systematic match-fixing in the NRL.

The consequences are huge. Careers could be over. Police charges could be laid. Betting markets will be in turmoil.

It’s another week in the endless controversy surrounding one of Australia’s biggest sporting codes.

Following Queensland’s gritty State of Origin Game 1 win on Wednesday night, the Daily Telegraph broke the news that New South Wale’s Organised Crime Squad was looking into NRL games.

Bang.

The games in question were both played in 2015 – Manly vs. South Sydney in round 16 and Manly vs. Parramatta in round 24.

Not a great sign for the already-struggling Sea Eagles.

“The Organised Crime Squad is in the early stages of examining information to alleged match fixing in the NRL,” a police spokeswoman confirmed.

Questions will be asked – how far does this go down the rabbit hole?

In 2011 former Bulldogs player Ryan Tandy was found guilty of match-fixing and convicted. He was fined $4000 and placed on a good behaviour bond after trying to manipulate the first scoring play of the game for betting purposes.

The NRL community would be incredibly-ignorant to now believe Tandy was the only one hoping to make some extra money from shady sources.

NRL players have already been issued warnings about ‘consorting with convicted criminals’. Parramatta’s Corey Norman, Junior Paulo and James Segeyaro are players confirmed to receive such warnings. None of the mentioned are to be assumed as cheats, but their warnings illustrate a worrying trend in Australian professional sport.

To what level are organised crime figures involved with players and officials? How easy is it to manipulate sporting outcomes? How much money would it take to corrupt NRL players who are widely known to be paid less than their Australian Football League counterparts?

In response to the news, the NRL promised to inflict the harshest penalties imaginable this morning. League CEO Todd Greenberg has warned all clubs of the league’s zero-tolerance approach to match-fixing.

“The possibility of the existence of match fixing within our sport cuts to the core of our sport and our values,” Greenberg said.

“We will take whatever action is necessary to protect the integrity of our sport.”

Could the league already be too late?

Detective Inspector Wayne Walpole, in charge of the state’s charter against organised crime infiltrating sport, believes that the seeds of corruption may have already been planted.

“I’m not saying corruption or match fixing has happened, but I’m saying the infiltration is there and that infiltration can lead to the compromise of the sports of the athlete,” he said.

What can be done about match-fixing in Australian sport?

The NRL has had its fill of off-field controversy over the last decade. The last thing it can afford is for the public to lose confidence in the integrity of results.

No sport around the world is safe. International cricket is plagued by spot-fixing drama. Soccer has a different controversy every month, in every city, in every league. AFL players have felt the brunt of betting on their own games. Tennis is under a fresh shroud of corruption allegations through its player ranks. The less said about boxing, the better.

As the online gambling industry grows, so too does the lure of big dollars.

Perhaps what is needed is a few scapegoats to shine a light on the underbelly of the sport and deter others. Perhaps we’ve been too naive for too long.

Professional sporting codes around the country insist that legislation on Australia’s antiquated online gambling laws could help fix the problem. The current laws banning live betting online force punters to line the pockets of illegal offshore bookmakers. It has been proven that these illegal bookmakers have deep ties to criminal figures and money laundering schemes.

Could our Government be empowering the figures they are trying to stop? Would legal online live betting help keep an eye on where the money is going?

The people at the forefront of the fight – those running the sporting codes – all think so.

It’s a pity the Government does not.