Eels’ NRL cap saga no distraction: Arthur

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur claims his players are unaffected by the latest allegations of salary cap breaches in the lead-up to Saturday’s NRL match against defending premiers North Queensland.

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Just a week after the NRL lifted a threat of a four-point deduction following governance reforms at the club, the governing body has re-opened salary cap investigations following fresh claims of manipulation of third-party deals.

On Friday evening, the Seven Network aired new allegations the Eels discussed $300,000 in third-party deals two years ago during contract negotiations with prop Tim Mannah.

NRL rules prevent clubs being involved in third-party agreements and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing on Mannah’s part.

But if the headlines – and potential new threat of sanctions – are affecting the playing roster, Arthur isn’t letting on.

“The boys are pretty resilient. They don’t read the papers, honestly,” Arthur said earlier on Friday.

“I know it’s a pretty common statement to be thrown around, but they don’t. They’re only worried about what they can do on the field.”

The former Manly assistant said he too was unaware of exactly what caused chairman Steve Sharp and chief executive John Boulos to be summoned on Thursday night to NRL headquarters.

“I wouldn’t know what’s going on at the moment because I haven’t asked about it, because I’m not concerned about it,” he said.

News Corp Australia claimed on Friday that documents revealed Boulos was allocated up to 50 corporate box seats at each game last year, while he was the club’s chief operating officer, some of which were then used to host third-party sponsors of some players.

Minutes from within a 2014 Parramatta boardroom meeting were also leaked to the media on Wednesday, highlighting “the importance of servicing third-party agreement providers accordingly with hospitality and player appearances”.

Under NRL salary cap rules, clubs cannot compensate companies in any way for third-party payments.

The club has denied any wrongdoing.

Both Boulos and Sharp agreed to open their books on Thursday to interim NRL boss John Grant and the head of the integrity unit, Nick Weeks, in a bid to address the issue.

Asked if he backed Sharp to continue as chairman, Arthur said: “I’m not talking about the salary cap anymore. If you want to talk about the footy, I’m happy to do that.”