A recent investigation by the NRL into illegal betting by players and officials has uncovered more than it bargained for, with eight players found to have bet on matches in contravention of the NRL’s rules. However, the NRL is refusing to concede that gambling is a widespread problem in the game, instead treating these instances as one-offs that don’t reflect a deeper betting culture.
After a recent investigation into breaches of its code of conduct, eight players were found to have broken that code, with former Australia, NSW and Manly Sea Eagles star David Williams the highest profile scalp amongst the 1500 registered players and officials who underwent a betting audit.
Williams, who is known as the ‘Wolfman’, has been banned from playing for the rest of the year, and this may spell the end of the winger’s colourful career, with Manly now looking to terminate his contract. Williams was found to have made a significant number of bets over the past three years, ranging in size from $5 to $60, on matches including those in which he played. However, no evidence has come to light that the 27-year-old former Kangaroo was involved in any match-fixing.
“There is no suggestion of match-fixing or inappropriate conduct on the field by those involved,” said Jim Doyle, chief operating officer of the NRL, “but the Integrity Unit is determined to protect the interests of all players, fans and members.”
Four other players have also been banned for two matches each after having been found to have bet on matches involving their teams, although none of the four played in those games. They are Slade Griffin and Hymel Hunt (Storm), Cody Nelson (Titans) and Ethan Lowe (Cowboys).
Twelve match officials have also had their association with the game terminated, or have been suspended for the remainder of the season for similar offences, while a further twelve have received reprimands.
In briefing the media about the punishments handed out to the five players, Jim Doyle said, “In the majority of cases, these were small bets – often as little as $5 – but this is a clear statement to everyone involved in rugby league that you are taking a major risk if you bet on matches. We are adopting a zero tolerance policy from this point on and, if you are caught betting on rugby league matches in the future, you will spend a long time on the sidelines or you will be sacked no matter how small the bet.”
However, John Doyle and the NRL do not believe that they are dealing with a significantly widespread problem, nor that a culture of betting is endemic in the game: “Let me be clear that there is no suggestion of widespread abuse of betting rules or inappropriate conduct on the field related to betting,” he said.