Immortal Bob Fulton has demanded to know why his name has been linked to the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles salary cap scandal and insisted he had been willing to be interviewed by NRL investigators but was unavailable at the time they wanted to speak to him.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and chief operating officer Nick Weeks told a media conference to announce the sanctions against the Sea Eagles that the integrity unit had interviewed all the Manly personnel it needed to – except for Fulton.
Greenberg said that if Fulton, who was the Sea Eagles general manager of football until last October wanted to continue as an Australian selector or to work in another role in the game he would have to apply for registration.
However, Fulton told NRL.com that he had previously made it known he would not be seeking re-appointment as a Test selector and wanted to know if he had been accused of any wrongdoing.
"I am bewildered. I just want some transparency from the NRL, just please tell me what I have done wrong," Fulton said. "It is something I am not comfortable with. I don’t like the way I have been treated."
Fulton said he had voluntarily handed his mobile phone over to the NRL integrity unit and was not asked to submit for an interview until November 24, which was shortly before the investigation concluded.
"I was in Hawaii and I told them that I would be available for a face-to-face interview when I got back but Todd wanted it tidied up by December 7 or 8," Fulton said.
"I’m a minor player in this, I was there [at Manly] for two years and this [salary cap breaches] supposedly went on for five years. I didn’t know what was going on in 2012, 2013, 2014 and even 2015. I came in in 2015 and got out three-quarters of the way through 2017.
"I was only there to facilitate a bounce back by Manly and I did that. I left there thinking everything is sweet, the ship is right, [Trent] Barret can buy his three marquee players every two years, there is a good roster there and the juniors are going good so that is why I got out.
"I have been out of the game now for six months and for this to happen is unfair."
No players on Manly's 2018 NRL roster are implicated. And the NRL will not be naming names of previous players with question marks over their renumeration.
Greenberg said the integrity unit had wanted to interview Fulton because of his role as general manager of football for the Sea Eagles.
I wasn't interviewed': Toovey on Manly salary cap breaches
"The integrity unit reached out to Bob on numerous occasions. My understanding is that he was unavailable for interview at the times requested."
Greenberg was quick to point out that Fulton's record as a player, including 35 Tests for Australia - or in other words the nuts and bolts of why he became an Immortal – was unquestioned.
"Bob is an Immortal first and foremost. That's because of everything he did on the field and his achievements were nothing short of phenomenal," Greenberg said.
Manly coach Trent Barrett, who began his tenure in 2016 and is contracted until the end of 2020, received an official warning from the NRL.
"What I would say is that Trent was put into a difficult position in some of these discussions," Greenberg said.
"He complied continually with the integrity unit's investigation. But there's no evidence to suggest there is any accreditation issues for Trent. Trent is in the clear."
That also applies to previous Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey, who took over from Des Hasler in 2012 and then was replaced by Barrett at the end of the 2015 season.
Toovey told NRL.com he had not been interviewed during the salary cap investigation, which began last July.
Heavy sanctions for Manly
If Fulton wanted to become involved with the game in the future he would have to apply for registration.
"He would have to seek registration like everyone else and we would have to consider that registration if and when that was available," Greenberg said.
The Australian Rugby League Commission will appoint the next Kangaroos selectors towards the end of the season, before the one-off Test against New Zealand scheduled for October.
Fulton has ruled himself out, telling NRL.com: "I'm out of the game totally. They know that."