General Gallop: Penalty was appropriate

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From tvnz.co.nz

The New Zealand Warriors will make a bid to get their NRL points penalty overturned, while they scramble to get back under the salary cap before the competition starts.

The club it would make submissions to the NRL against the severity of its punishment for breaching the salary cap in 2004 and 2005 by nearly $1 million.

The NRL board on Monday docked the Warriors four competition points - the equivalent of two wins - and fined the club $430,000 for the breach, which came to light last week.

"We can't appeal, we'll be making a submission in response to the NRL breach notice," executive director of football John Hart told reporters in Auckland.

"We think the severity of the points deduction is totally unfair."

Hart said the Warriors would argue "the unfairness of a team that will be meeting the salary cap in 2006 - because we're committed to do that - and being penalised in the future for something that's happened in the past."

But NRL chief executive David Gallop said the Warriors were acting in vain.

While it was "unlikely" the Warriors' submission would result in a harsher penalty, Gallop said the penalty should stand due to the size of the breach.

"If they appeal we will listen to what they say but we believe the penalty was appropriate," Gallop said at the season launch in Sydney.

"The important things about these issues is everyone knew what they are.

"At the end of the day you can't have a situation where clubs can breach the cap by that much and write out a cheque."

Hart, the former All Blacks rugby coach, conceded the NRL warned clubs two years ago that points would be deducted for salary cap breaches.

But the club will argue that its transparency and openness in dealing with the breach should warrant a more lenient penalty.

Hart said management was working through options with the NRL to bring player payments back under the cap for 2006 before the Warriors' opening round game in Auckland on March 12 against Melbourne.

The team won't be allowed onto the paddock if it's still over the cap.

Management is looking at a combination of methods to get back under the cap, but Hart said that was not an issue the players should be concerned about.

"Certainly, we will be starting at Ericsson Stadium on March 12 under the salary cap," he said.

"This is not an issue for the players, it is the club which has to take total responsibility for any salary cap breaches."

Warriors captain Steve Price said management had outlined to the players the measures needed to get under the cap.

The former Bulldogs captain, who went through that club's 37-point deduction in 2002, said the Warriors' saga was a wake-up call for all NRL players.

"I suppose we'll get notified on who and what has to be done and we'll deal with it from there," Price said.

"I'm certainly sure that now players will be a lot more aware that contracts they do sign are definitely by the rules and they'll make sure that the management are doing the right thing by the players as well."

He bristled at suggestions arrangements made for him and fellow prop Ruben Wiki when they were recruited in 2004 were responsible for the cap breach.

"How do you know it's my contract?" he said.

"It's all speculation. At the end of the day, there's 25 guys under the salary cap so if you can come to those conclusions then you're a pretty smart man."

While most people within the league maintain the Warriors will find it difficult being competitive in the finals race in 2006, coach Ivan Cleary remains optimistic despite the points deduction.

The rookie coach said he "absolutely" would have taken the job if he already knew of the penalty.

"I knew there was going to be some hard times. May as well start early," Cleary said.

"All I've got to do is concentrate on my job and that's getting the football team ready."

Meanwhile the NRL continued its investigation into the salary cap claims levelled at St George Illawarra by former player Lance
Thompson.

Thompson had claimed the club offered him a $100,000-a-year-job post-football, a fact Dragons chief executive Peter Doust doesn't
categorically deny but says it was never in a contract.

"I said before in various locations that Lance and I often talked about what he would do after football," said Doust.

"I was always concerned as was he about what his future may hold post-football. We talked about coaching qualifications and coaching jobs.

"But ... we negotiated a determination of our arrangements in 2005 and that determination was confidential and registered with the salary cap auditor and that is all I want to say about it."

Thompson will meet with salary cap auditor Ian Schubert on Thursday.
 

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