Penn says Sea Eagles likely to pursue legal defence
The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles have met with the club's lawyers with a view to laying the foundations for an appeal against the NRL's $750,000 fine and other penalties for salary cap breaches.
Chairman Scott Penn and CEO Lyall Gorman met NRL officials earlier on Monday before chief executive Todd Greenberg publicly announced the sanctions against Manly for paying 15 former players about $1.5 million above the cap over five years.
Penn and Gorman left the NRL's Moore Park offices and went to their lawyers to seek advice.
"We'll have some preliminary outline back by the close of business tomorrow and then a full brief by Wednesday," Penn told NRL.com.
"At this stage we're certainly likely to appeal. We think there are strong grounds to appeal.
"But it's a little early to detail the specifics of any appeal… we're still waiting on advice."
The Sea Eagles have five business days to lodge their complaint with the NRL Appeals Committee.
Penn said he had spoken with coach Trent Barrett and sent emails to staff and players.
The Sea Eagles face the Canberra Raiders at Lottoland on Saturday night in round four.
"Trent's obviously super-disappointed as well but we just need him and the players to focus on the game this weekend. We don't want to distract them," Penn said.
"This is a management issue now and we'll look after it so they (players) can move forward."
The NRL did send Barrett an official warning about the governance issues in player negotiations. But Greenberg also stressed Barrett was "in the clear" about the current investigation.
Penn said he felt Manly's club reputation had been hit unfairly.
"We're bitterly disappointed as to how this is all being portrayed," he told NRL.com.
"We have been consistent throughout in saying we've always felt this is a technical matter.
"It is absolutely not systemic rorting. It's not paying people under the table, it's nothing to do with that.
"At worst, as part of negotiating with players we give them our best endeavours to try and introduce them to people (to secure third-party agreements).
"We stand up hand on heart – and Todd would back this up - that our salary cap is 100% compliant. The club has only paid players their contracted amount," Penn said.
"So we have not paid one cent more. As chairman I am comfortable, from a governance point of view, that the club has not paid over what we put in our statutory declaration.
"In terms of the process around how the negotiations occur and what is discussed in those negotiations, I'm not involved in those so I can't go into detail.
"But at the same time, it's about that process we're talking about here. We're not talking about the contract that's been entered into or the salary cap compliance."
Former Manly CEO Joe Kelly – now with the Sydney Roosters – and former chief operating officer Neil Bare have had their NRL registrations suspended for 12 months.
But if they undertake approved governance training programs, they will be eligible for reduced nine-month suspensions, and can return to the game from January 1, 2019.