The NRL is mystified as to why Wests Tigers sought salary-cap dispensation for a "destabilising" Robbie Farah after they agreed to pay the champion hooker $639,000 post-career to be a club ambassador.
The Tigers' bizarre deal with Farah - made in September of 2016 before he was offloaded to South Sydney - on Wednesday led to the club being fined $750,000 and their CEO provisionally deregistered by the league.
The Tigers have vowed to vigorously defend their integrity and that of Justin Pascoe but will need to deliver a compelling case to convince NRL boss Todd Greenberg and chief operating officer Nick Weeks to have the breach notice thrown out.
Apart from claiming Farah's ambassador payment should have been included in the salary cap - and will be in 2019 - Greenberg and Weeks are puzzled about why the veteran was even offered the role.
"That's the contradiction that we're struggling to understand," Weeks said.
"There's a provision in our rules that enables clubs, in circumstances where they move players on for reputational reasons, to apply to the NRL to have money excluded from the salary cap.
"So, after Robbie left, the club paid money that was owed to him under his contract and they approached us to exclude some of those payments on the basis that Robbie was a destabilising influence on the club.
"What they didn't disclose when they made that application was the fact that the club had earlier entered into an ambassador agreement to bring him back.
"On our assessment of that, that's misleading."
The Tigers have until the end of January to respond to the breach notices.
The Tigers issued a statement and said they were "shocked with the decision and extremely disappointed in the process".
"Wests Tigers are particularly concerned about the wrongful attack on the integrity of the club's CEO. For the last three years Justin has shown nothing but respect for the NRL and the salary cap," the statement said.
"The club will be vigorously defending this."
Farah left the club for South Sydney at the end of 2016 after a long feud with then coach Jason Taylor, who wanted to move him on, but subsequently returned as a player in June this year.
The Tigers said new CEO Pascoe made the ambassadorial offer because he felt the club had disrespected long-serving ex-captain Farah.
"It's an arrangement that Wests Tigers had with Robbie that is unrelated to his career as a player," the club said.
"The club does not know if he is going to take it up and Robbie has not indicated his intention in return.
"Most importantly, Wests Tigers derive absolutely no advantage from this arrangement. It is not tied in any way to Robbie's playing contract."
Greenberg stressed Farah had done anything wrong, merely having his manager executive a lucrative deal for his client.
"The games rules are very, very clear on these arrangements. Any commitment to make such a payment should have been disclosed and it should have been included in the salary cap," Greenberg said.
The NRL chief admitted the $639,000 included in the Tigers' $9.6 million cap for 2019 could also force the club to shed players.
Australian Associated Press