SYDNEY (AP) — Police in Australia have stepped up investigations into alleged match-fixing in the National Rugby League.
New South Wales state police on Wednesday said players and officials are among dozens of people expected to be interviewed in the coming months, adding that the "strike force" is likely to require "protracted" investigations.
The NRL, which has 15 Australian-based teams and one in New Zealand, said it will support the investigation.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg warned that there'd be a "life ban from any involvement in rugby league" for anyone convicted of match-fixing, but added "We are not going to pre-judge any person associated with the game while this process is underway."
Australian media last month reported a seventh-round match between Manly and Parramatta was being investigated for suspicious betting activity. Parramatta scored three tries in the last 12 minutes to win 22-10.
Two matches from the 2015 NRL season were already under investigation, both reportedly involving Manly — a Round 16 game against South Sydney, and a 24th-round match against Parramatta.
"The NSW Police Force has launched an investigation following a review of information into reported cheating, gambling and match-fixing in the National Rugby League," a police statement said. "Detectives from the state crime command's organized crime squad have launched strike force Nuralda to investigate the matters and determine if any criminal offenses have been committed."
The news comes as the NRL begins its first round of the playoffs on Friday. Manly, Parramatta and South Sydney were not among the eight teams which qualified for the playoffs.
The NRL was last hit by match-fixing in 2010 when Ryan Tandy was convicted of trying to fix the early stages of a match between his Canterbury team and North Queensland.