JAMES GARDINER: Seven days of league

Allegations of secret payments, mystery accounts and unregistered third-party deals fly at Parramatta Eels HQ. Picture: Getty ImagesThursday, July 23

THE boss calls me into his office. The auditors have been through the books of League HQ. No secrets payments, house deals or cheap renos, but it seems the salary cap is stretched to the limit. Something to do with regular Seven Days columnist Robert Dillon, a Walkley award and bonus fees. The upshot is that Dillon has to put his feet up for a week. Game on.

My boys, ‘‘The Negotiator’’ and the ‘‘Little Blond Nugget’’, celebrate the call-up in typical fashion. The three-year-old (LBN) hits me from the blindside with a shoulder charge. His older brother wipes the dust off the 89 grand final DVD then rummages through the bookcase for the autographed copy of Local Hero – The Wayne Pearce Story. A night in.

Interim Parramatta chief executive John Boulous feels like he has been run over by a rampaging Dave Klemmer when he answers the phone and Sydney Morning Herald investigative reporter Kate McClymont is on the line. Allegations surface over secret payments, mystery accounts and unregistered third-party deals totalling more than $1million. If I’m a Slipperies fan, I’m hoping they have robbed the bank to keep the Hayne Plane in fuel. You wouldn’t feed the rest.

Friday, July 24

FORMER Knights and Jets owner Nathan Tinkler is back in the headlines after a run-in with a pesky journalist out the front of a Brisbane pub. Displaying the agility and dexterity of his days playing in the front row for the Muswellbrook Rams, Tinks fends off a cameraman in a bullocking run to his car. Buoyed by his palm and offload, the fallen magnate lines up for another hit-up. Responding to questions about his failed empire, Tinks says: ‘‘At the end of the day I lost my own money. I haven’t ripped anyone off. I haven’t done anything wrong.’’ Hmmm. A worldwide web of creditors may argue that point.

Friday night footy. ‘‘Here come the Tigers wearing black and gold . . .’’

And, boy, didn’t the young Cubs have a dig. An upset is in the offing when James Tabasco Sauce sizzles over for a solo effort and closes the gap to 8-4 after 26 minutes. The Chooks eventually get home on the back of a James Maloney field goal for a 33-8 triumph in a match that could have gone either way.

Up north, Clint Eastwood’s Broncos ride roughshod over the Gold Coast. There are later unconfirmed reports of the Titans doing a nude run down Cavill Avenue after the pantsing.

Saturday, July 25

THE Kotara South Tigers under-6s lift the spirits of Tig Togs fans with a gritty 3-1 win over neighbours New Lambton Eagles (not that you keep score in under-6 soccer). The Negotiator doesn’t get on the scoresheet but manages to talk himself out of a yellow card and later convinces The Bride to buy him a bag of lollies at the canteen. Genius.

Mark Hughes appears on social media wearing a beanie and the Kurri Kurri jumper that he scored a double in to topple Western Suburbs 24-3 in the 1995 Real NRL grand final. The post is part of the Hughes Foundation’s Beanies For Brain Cancer promotion.

However, it’s not enough to inspire the Bulldogs to a repeat of ’95, going down 25-20 to the Maggots.

A brain cancer survivor now known as ‘‘No Booze’’ Hughes, the former winger contemplates getting back on the drink after his other team, the Knights, get lapped 52-6 by the Bunnies.

At the foot of the mountains, Fifita brothers Andrew and David do their bit for referee relations by offering a whistleblower some IT advice about his iPhone after running the water in a seniors A-grade game.

Sunday, July 26

THE Bulldogs turn back the clock with a return to Belmore. I’m half expecting Peter Tunks, Geoff Robinson and Darren Britt to burst down the tunnel. The nostalgia is overshadowed by the furore over the Fifita brothers and the Sharkies’ decision to allow them to play. If only Mick Fanning had been a referee instead of surfing world champion.

In another blast from the past, the Penny Panthers return to the days of the Chocolate Shoulders with a retro jersey against the Faiders. Thankfully the Panthers cheerleaders stick with their spandex jumpsuits. On the field, there are serious concerns for Panthers kamikaze back-rower Nigel Plum after he clashes melons with Josh Papalii. Plum, whose car wreck of a body costs the Panthers more than $1500 a year in strapping tape, refuses to be stretchered off and becomes the first player to walk from the field in a neck brace. Plums . . . more like boulders.

Monday, July 27

Suspended indefinitely: David and Andrew Fifita. Picture: Getty Images

WITH a win over the Dogs in the bank and the NRL circling, the Sharks finally hook the Fifita brothers and suspend them indefinitely.

There is no such leniency at the Knights, where the board flicks coach Rick Stone. Club legend Danny Buderus is installed as caretaker coach for the final six rounds.

Former premiership-winning boss Michael Hagan and assistant Craig Sandercock will provide support.

Speaking of nicknames, the man affectionately known as Ogre is back in the limelight.

The 34-year-old former Kangaroo comes out of retirement to play a one-off match alongside his 17-year-old son, Nick, for the Wyong Roos. Apparently ‘‘Ogre-Jr’’, a centre, is a star in the making and has attracted interest from the Knights and the Chooks. Incredibly, both Ogres score a try in the Roos’ 44-4 win over Umina.

Tuesday, July 28

WHEN Dillo talks, the punters listen. In a back-page Newcastle Herald article Dillon endorses former Western Suburbs and Waratah-Mayfield premiership-winning fullback Garth Brennan as the man to fill the seat vacated by Stone.

A former police prosecutor, Brennan has spent the past two years at the Panthers. He led their under-20s to a premiership last year and his reserve-grade side are at the top the table.

Bookmakers William Hill had Brennan listed at $7, behind Nathan Brown ($3), Geoff Toovey ($5) and Kevin Walters ($5) when betting opened on Monday.

That was before Dillon’s tick of approval.

Luxbet, which is the corporate arm of the TAB, responds by winding Brennan into $1.90 favourite.

Wednesday, July 29

MANLY greats demand an ‘‘investigation’’ after Geoff Toovey is officially dumped.

Meanwhile, a disturbing report from Papua New Guinea comes across the Seven Days desk.

The PNG minister for public enterprise and state investment, Ben Micah, says in parliament that Kumuls players are ready to ‘‘hunt down, kill and eat’’ their Australian and New Zealand counterparts.

The ABC reports Micah as saying: ‘‘I think Australia and New Zealand can look level at us and not laugh at us any more.

‘‘I predict, Mr Speaker, our Kumuls are going to beat the Kangaroos.

‘‘We are going to hunt them down, we’ll kill them and we’ll eat them.’’

On that appetising note, it’s back to you, Dillo.

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