NRL game in Sydney under fixing suspicion

CHRIS BARRETT
Last updated 07:19 13/02/2013
Ryan Tandy
Getty Images
NOT THE FIRST TIME: Ryan Tandy was convicted of spot-fixing in 2010 while playing for the Bulldogs.

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An NRL game held in Sydney is understood to have been identified by the Australian Crime Commission's probe into sport as an instance of suspected match fixing.

It is believed NSW Police have been told about the suspect game, which was referred to last Thursday by Federal Justice Minister Jason Clare, who said authorities were investigating a potential case of match fixing with links with organised crime and doping in Australian professional sport.

It is understood the ACC's gaze fell specifically on a rugby league game in Sydney and it is believed it is now the subject of further investigation.

Claims of performance-enhancing substance use within the NRL and AFL have dominated attention in the past six days since the Project Aperio revelations and six NRL clubs - Canberra, Cronulla, Manly, Newcastle, North Queensland and Penrith - have been told they are mentioned in some capacity in the report released last week by the country's top crime-fighting agency.

However, on the back of a 12-month investigation, the ACC repeatedly outlined the links between drugs and match fixing via organised criminal networks, arguing that athletes who took illicit substances were particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

"Wherever criminals are involved in influencing players, there is the risk that they will use that influence over players to fix matches," Clare said when releasing the report.

"We've identified information that suggests that that had happened on one occasion. And the Crime Commission has referred that information to the relevant authorities for further investigation."

The ugly spectre of match fixing is not new to rugby league. The code was plunged into scandal in August 2010 when an investigation began into a match between Canterbury and North Queensland in Townsville following the discovery of a highly unusual betting plunge on the game's first-scoring play. An investigation by a strike force within the State Crime Command's Casino and Racing Investigation Unit led ultimately to the spot-fixing conviction of Bulldogs front-rower Ryan Tandy.

Another identity charged in connection to the affair was the former first-grader John Elias, and he is due back in court on Monday after the Director of Public Prosecutions won an appeal against magistrate Peter Miszalski's decision in November 2011 to dismiss the charge against the 49-year-old.

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A recent A-League football game in Melbourne was the focus of an extraordinary surge of betting - more than $40 million was wagered with a single Hong Kong bookmaker - but Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop said he had been told there were no "issues of concern about integrity" surrounding that competition.

The NRL declined to comment on suspicions about a match in Sydney when contacted.

The ACC report delivered last week said it was not only elite athletes who could be corrupted but lower-tier players. "Overseas experience has also demonstrated that criminal identities and groups will invest years developing such relationships, with the ultimate aim of having the athlete participate in activities such as match fixing . . . organised criminal groups involved in match fixing are increasingly targeting sub-elite athletes due to the ease with which these individuals can be 'bought', the lower levels of scrutiny from integrity authorities at sub-elite competitions, and the potential long-term value of these athletes to the criminal group."

A TAB spokesman said it had no reason to suspend betting on this year's NRL premiership despite six clubs being identified in the ACC report.

The spokesman said there had been no significant money laid on the "most losses" category since last Thursday, and while Penrith - one of the teams named - have been backed heavily to finish at the bottom of the ladder this season so have Parramatta, who are not under investigation.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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