The CEO of NRL newcomers, the Dolphins, admits the club has been left "perplexed" after being slapped with a $50,000 suspended fine for allegedly attempting to persuade centre Deine Mariner to break his contract with arch-rivals Brisbane. Mariner's manager Dixon McIver - despite denying any wrongdoing - has also been handed a warning in relation to the anti-tampering breach allegations.
Mariner approached Brisbane seeking an immediate release in October last year, but was convinced to stay and has since extended his stay in Brisbane until the end of the 2027 season. However, the Dolphins have been accused of trying to entice Mariner to break contract with the Broncos so he was free to sign with them.
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AAP reported that someone called Mariner last year - not his agent McIver - to say he would be paid a lot more money to join the Dolphins. Such an approach would contravene NRL rules forbidding rival clubs from making offers to players until after November 1. It's also illegal to try and persuade players to break contract with their clubs.
The NRL has now completed its investigation into the case, with the Dolphins handed a breach notice and $25,000 fine - with the other $25,000 suspended. "It is alleged that both the Dolphins club and the player agent contravened the NRL Playing Contract and Remuneration Rules (PCR Rules) in dealings concerning Brisbane Broncos player Deine Mariner," the NRL said in a statement.
"Specifically, the breach notice alleges a failure by the club to comply with the record keeping provisions of the PCR Rules. The notice proposes a $50,000 financial penalty (50 per cent suspended) for the club. The show cause notice issued to the Player Agent alleges a failure to comply with the player negotiation provisions of the PCR Rules and the record keeping provisions of the Agents Accreditation Scheme Rules (Scheme Rules).
"(It) proposes a 12-month suspension of the Agent's accreditation should he again breach the Scheme Rules or the PCR Rules in the next 24 months." Both the Dolphins and McIver have until next Thursday to formally respond to the breach notice.
Dolphins 'perplexed' by NRL breach claims
Dolphins CEO Terry Reader says his organisation is "perplexed by the breach notice and will respond in due course", while player agent McIver says he feels "violated" and has denied the allegations. AAP has been told the Broncos have a good relationship with McIver and do not blame him for what unfolded with Mariner.
"I can't point the finger at the Dolphins for doing anything wrong and I also understand how the Broncos feel. I probably shouldn't have spoken to anyone about anything," McIver said. "This has taken me by surprise because I have always played by the book. It feels like someone has robbed your house. You feel violated a bit.
"There is nothing for me to appeal against. I take a lot of pride in what I do. The way I see things is that if I am not supposedly displaying good behaviour the next 24 months I should be suspended for five years. That is the way things should be. I know I have not done anything wrong."
The Dolphins' CEO flat-out refutes suggestions his club tried to entice Mariner to break his contract, and will give a more detailed response to the breach notice when they've had more time to analyse the NRL's findings. “We haven’t had a chance to read all the findings, we’ll have a look into it and respond in due course once we understand all the facts," Reader said.
The Dolphins complained earlier in 2023 about feeling "used" by potential player targets who ultimately negotiated better deals at their existing clubs. The Dolphins have acquired the services of gun Brisbane pair Herbie Farnworth and Thomas Flegler from 2024, but coach Wayne Bennett has missed out on several potential marquee signings such as Cameron Munster, Latrell Mitchell and Kalyn Ponga, who were all heavily linked with the club.
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