RL: ARL CLUBS APPROACHED OVER SL PLAYERS, COURT TOLD
LEAGUE PENRITH NIGHTLEAD
By Bruce Walkley of AAP
SYDNEY, Feb 20 AAP - Australian Rugby League official Geoff Carr
asked ARL-loyal clubs earlier this month whether they would employ
10 top players on the same salaries as their Super League contracts
provided, the Supreme Court of New South Wales was told today.
ARL general manager John Quayle said in an affidavit he had
instructed Carr, the league's national communications manager, to
make the inquiry.
Carr was also to ask whether the clubs would be preparedto
offer the players contracts for the same duration as their Super
Quayle gave the evidence in a case in which the ARL and the New
South Wales Rugby Legue are seeking temporary injunctions
preventing the 10 players -- eight from Penrith and two others --
from playing in the Super League competition.
The leagues contend they are prohibited from doing so by clauses
in loyalty agreements they signed with the ARL in April last year.
The Penrith players involved, most of whom were in court today,
are John Cartwright, Steve Carter, Robbie Beckett, Phil Adamson,
Barry Walker, Danny Farrar, David Alexander and Steve Waddell.
Former Eastern Suburbs player Rod Silva, who went to Super
League lub Canterbury, and Anthony Mundine, who at the time the
proceedings began also intended going to Canterbury but is expected
to return to St George, are the others named.
Dick Conti QC, for the leagues, told the court material in
replies faxed from a number of clubs referred to a memo from Carr
dated February 12, which Quayle said he had not seen.
The memo was not produced in court, and Tom Hughes QC, for the
players, objected to the clubs' replies being tendered until it
Hughes described the contents of the clubs' faxed letters as
being "unauthenticated" without knowing what was in the February 12
memo, "and until that is produced the admission of the documents
should not be allowed, quite apart from any other objection I might
wish to take when I receive the letter or the fax of the 12th of
The replies, from the North Sydney, Illawarra, Newcastle,
Parramatta and South Queensland Crushers clubs, were marked for
identification, without their contents being disclosed, pending
efforts to produce the February 12 document.
Quayle agreed with Hughes during cross-examination that losing
eight players would substantially reduce the Penrith Super League
team's playing strength.
"Do you agree ... that the abstraction from the squad of those
eight players would be likely to cause a substantial diminution in
the playing strength of the Penrith Super League team?" Hughes
"Ah -- yes," Quayle replied.
Earlier, in his opening remarks, Hughes criticised what he said
had been "massive laches" in the case -- a reference to a legal
term used to described delay or negligence in performing legal
duties -- on the part of the leagues, as the case had originally
been brought in June last year.
Mark O'Brien, a partner in the leagues' advising law firm of
Gilbert & Tobin, gave evidence of an agreement last year between
the parties not to proceed with the move for a temporary injunction
pending the outcome of proceedings in the Federal Court and the
Industrial Court of NSW.
He said the matter had been revived last month partly because no
dates had been set for the Industrial Court hearing, in which the
players are seeking to have the April agreements with the ARL
declared void, and partly because of uncertainty about when the
Federal Court would give judgment on the trade practices case
between the leagues and News Limited.
Hughes told Justice Kim Santow that "this belated application,
that could have been made in June last, is nothing but a spoiling
tactic on the part of the leagues to disrupt a competition the
leagues have known for some time as due to start on March 1".
However Conti disputed this, saying the players had "taken a
punt on getting away with a breach of the sanctity of contract",
despite being warned in letters dated August 22 last year that if
they did so it would be "at their own peril".
The letters, which O'Brien said had been sent by his firm to
between 380 and 400 players signed by Super League who had
previously been on ARL standard contracts, enclosed a copy of the
orders sought by the leagues against News Limited and Super League
in the Federal Court proceedings.
"Obviously, you should take your own legal advice on the
implications of any of the orders that might be made in these
proceedings on your own position," the letters, a copy of which was
tendered in court today, said.
"We emphasise that the ARL/NSWRL is not seeking any orders
against any player. Whether or not you are content to leave the
matter in the hands of the lawyers who are representing News and
its associated clubs is a matter for you.
"If you or any other players wanted to approach the court in
order to make submissions as to what orders should be made in the
case, our clients would not oppose any such application."
The hearing will continue tomorrow.
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