Payments made by Cronulla to Ben Barba before he defected to rugby union will be included in the Sharks salary cap for the 2017 season.
Fairfax Media understands Barba may have received up to $50,000 from the Sharks before signing a deal to play in the French rugby union competition.
On the day the club trumpeted the re-signing of Australian star Valentine Holmes, they have again been reminded of the cost of Barba’s defection to rugby.
The premiers could be forced to forfeit a chunk of this year’s salary cap as a result of his decision to walk out on the game, with the NRL set to include any termination payout or advances as part of the cap.
The Sharks were given permission by the NRL to make payments to Barba after his contract was terminated for testing positive to cocaine in October last year – concerned with the welfare and financial state of the troubled fullback.
It was expected to come out of the contract the Sharks lodged with the NRL, however the 27-year-old didn’t stick around long enough for the Sharks to get their money’s worth.
Cronulla wouldn’t confirm if those payments were made to Barba when contacted on Monday afternoon, however Fairfax Media understands the NRL will be looking closely at their books when it conducts its regular audits into club spending in the coming months.
The Sharks’ decision to support Barba in his hour of need could backfire in what would be a slap in the face given their intention to re-sign him when he received the green light from the NRL to return.
Cronulla recently agreed to a new one-year deal with Barba, however his reluctance to see out a 12-game ban, as well as frustrations over the NRL delay to register his contract, saw him take up a $2.5 million deal with French rugby giants, Toulon.
The shining light out of the disappointing saga is the retention of Holmes, the man who will replace Barba at No.1 this season.
The Queenslander, who picked up a hamstring injury in Saturday’s trial against Brisbane that will see him miss the world club challenge, will be in the shire until at least the end of 2019 after signing a two-year extension.
Holmes, who trialled alongside Jason Taumalolo in front of several NFL clubs in the off-season, also has a one-year option in his favour for 2020.
“It’s very exciting and good I was able to get it done before the start of the season,” Holmes said.
“We’re trying to keep the same team that won the premiership together, it’s a great bunch of guys, there are some good young blokes coming through and I’m really happy with the way we are going. As for playing fullback, I can’t wait to play there.”
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan, who will now turn his focus to retaining NSW Origin representative Jack Bird, said he was delighted the club was able to keep Holmes.
“Val is a representative standard player and someone destined for a long career in the NRL,” Flanagan said.
“It’s great for the club, our members and fans and for the corporate partners to know that he will be here for many years to come.”
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