Ivan Cleary, Shane Richardson and Des Hasler.
Ivan Cleary, Shane Richardson and Des Hasler.

Monday Buzz: How NRL clubs squandered millions

It's remarkable that everyone is blaming the NRL management for putting at serious risk the future of struggling clubs.

A look into their own backyards reveals the most appalling recent history of financial incompetence and mismanagement.

Plus instability so bad that there have been more than 100 different chief executives and chairs around the 16 clubs in the past five years.

The stories of some clubs and officials recklessly butchering money are frightening.

Collectively, they lost a combined $55 million in 2016 and $60 million in 2017. Even now with $13 million grants - $3.5 million above the salary cap - they are still losing $24 million.

Some of them make Todd Greenberg look like a financial genius.

 

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Todd Greenberg has copped it over rugby league’s financial state -— but the clubs aren’t blameless. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images
Todd Greenberg has copped it over rugby league’s financial state -— but the clubs aren’t blameless. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

 

We'll start at Penrith. In 2015, they sacked Ivan Cleary and paid him out for a full year.

They brought in Anthony Griffin then 18 months later they extended Griffin's contract. A few months later, they sacked Griffin, despite the team running in fourth place on finals eve. It's a $1.6 million payout.

Then they brought back Cleary and are paying him $1 million a season. He can't even make the finals.

Then Gus Gould, the man who sacked Cleary and Griffin, negotiated himself a $1 million redundancy.

 

Ivan Cleary was sacked by the Panthers, and then brought back on big money. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Ivan Cleary was sacked by the Panthers, and then brought back on big money. Picture: Jonathan Ng

 

It doesn't stop there. They unloaded Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and paid part of his salary at Canterbury.

They unloaded Waqa Blake and paid part of his salary at Parramatta.

They unloaded Reagan Campbell-Gillard and paid part of his salary at Parramatta.

They unloaded Trent Merrin and paid part of his salary at Leeds in the UK Super League.

It's sounding like a broken record but we'll keep going anyway.

This club also pays the companies of three of its directors $1.3 million for various services - Greg Alexander, chairman Dave O'Neill and board member Ian Hicks.

And now Penrith's $800,000-a-year CEO Brian Fletcher is threatening to abandon support to the biggest junior league nursery in the competition, blaming coronavirus, not the above examples of outrageous overspending.

 

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So we move on to the Cronulla Sharks … four chief executives in two years. Lyall Gorman, Barry Russell, Richard Munro and Dino Mezzatesta. They have survived only from the sale of assets.

The Manly Sea Eagles are even worse … Pat Wilson, Grant Mayer, Paul Cummings, David Perry, Graham Lowe, Joe Kelly, Tim Cleary, Gorman and now Stephen Humphreys.

That's nine CEOs in 12 years.

This mob even paid two head coaches for a year - Trent Barrett and Des Hasler.

The Gold Coast Titans. They have sacked and had to pay out Neil Henry and Garth Brennan. They have a halfback in Ash Taylor on $1 million when he's worth about a third of that amount.

St George Illawarra. They won the comp in 2010 … then had to borrow $7 million from the NRL to survive. To think we could have lost the most famous club in the game.

Then they went out and bought Bent Hunt for $1.2 million a season.

 

Ben Hunt is on big money at the Dragons. Picture: Tony Feder/Getty Images
Ben Hunt is on big money at the Dragons. Picture: Tony Feder/Getty Images

 

The Canterbury Bulldogs sacked Hasler in 2017, six months after signing him to three-year multimillion-dollar extension. The payout cost them a fortune.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs. They signed Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess on long-term deals to take them off the market and out of reach of rivals, despite doubts about their long-term capabilities.

The boys finished up with combined payouts of $5 million.

Then Shane Richardson, who did their deals, took a $500,000 redundancy payment while his poor staff were put off work without pay.

 

Shane Richardson took a payout from the Rabbitohs. Picture: Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos
Shane Richardson took a payout from the Rabbitohs. Picture: Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

 

We almost forgot premiership-winning coach Michael Maguire, who was sacked by Richardson and paid out $1 million. Thankfully the very capable Blake Solly is now in charge.

The Wests Tigers also needed a bailout $2 million loan from the NRL.

The Parramatta Eels. Four of their former directors were considered not "fit and proper" persons to be members of a governing body of a registered club in NSW.

At least they are now under new management, headed up by impressive CEO Jim Sarantinos.

There's no question the NRL has been guilty of poor management over a long period.

But apart from the Roosters, Broncos, Storm, Raiders and Cowboys, many of the clubs have been as bad, if not worse.

Originally published as 100 bosses in five years: How NRL clubs squandered millions



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