Seward regrets Eels saga
Former Parramatta boss Scott Seward has expressed remorse and relief that protracted legal action over his involvement in salary cap rorts at the Eels has ended.
He hopes the four-time premiership winning club can now return to its glory days.
“The one thing I hope out of this very sorry saga, is that the club has had the opportunity to cleanse itself. It’s had the opportunity to put what looks like a great new governance structure in place,” Seward told NRL.com in an exclusive interview on Friday.
Seward was speaking from Melbourne after District Court judge Penelope Wass in Sydney dismissed an application by NSW Police to appeal the leniency of a two-year good behaviour bond handed to Seward in July after he was convicted of fraud charges. Those charges carried a maximum penalty of a five-year jail term.
Between November 2014 and June 2015, Seward fraudulently obtained $221,106 from the Parramatta Leagues Club to top up illegal player payments.
In handing down his judgment in July, Deputy Chief Magistrate Chris O’Brien said Seward’s level of criminality in the fraud charges was at “the lower end of objective seriousness for offences of this type”, according to an AAP report.
“The offender’s motive was not one of personal gain,” O’Brien said. “Rather, (it was) to fix up what was a diabolical mess he had inherited from others.”
Seward effectively blew the whistle on his actions as CEO of the Eels by talking to the NRL’s Integrity Unit and the police last year.
On Friday in her judgment, Judge Wass said Seward deserved commendation for eventually reporting the breaches and resigning - steps she said took considerable courage.
"But for the respondent's disclosures, these offences may not have come to light," she said, citing his meaningful and prolonged assistance to police.
Seward was not required to attend court on Friday. He is about to take up a management position with Victorian-based Australian rules football club North Ballarat.
After he escaped a jail sentence in July, he told The Australian that the Parramatta members deserved better. Following Friday’s second court action, he stated his remorse once again.
“I apologise unreservedly to all Parramatta fans and supporters. It should never have happened,” Seward said.
“It was tough to come forward the first time, and tough to continue to do that (the appeal) and go through it all again.
“Many times, I questioned if I’d done the right thing by coming forward because if I didn’t, I don’t put my family through all of this. But if I don’t come forward then these practices would still be going on. So I did the right thing by speaking up.
“Hopefully it’s been a tipping point for the Parramatta club to move forward and finally get rid of all of the rubbish that has held that club back for years.
“Hopefully now they will now have a club they can be incredibly proud of and [one] that’s not in the media for the wrong reasons. It will be in the media for the right reasons and the Eels will be a club the Parramatta community and western Sydney can be proud of.”
After leaving the District Court, Seward’s lawyer John Sutton told NRL.com his client wanted to right a wrong.
“The Deputy Chief Magistrate got it right in the first place,” Sutton said. “There is a public interest in encouraging wrong-doers to face their crimes. Scott did everything asked of him.
“The criminal charges have now been dealt with. Today her honour found that not only was the deputy chief magistrate’s decision appropriate, it was the only decision the court could come to.”
Seward was CEO at the Eels for two years before resigning in June 2015. In May 2016, the NRL accused the Eels of systematically cheating the salary cap to the tune of $3 million over four years. The club was stripped of 12 competition points and fined $750,000.
Five other officials, including three board members, were sacked and a new football club administration put in place. In September 2016 Bernie Gurr was appointed CEO.