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Melbourne lose titles over salary breach

Cameron Smith lifts the NRL Premiership trophy with Melbourne Storm fans in 2009
Cameron Smith lifts the NRL Premiership trophy with Melbourne Storm fans in 2009
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NRL champions Melbourne Storm have been stripped of two Premiership titles
  • The Storm have been punished for breaching the National League's salary cap
  • They have also been fined $460,000 and will lose all their points earned in 2010
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(CNN) -- Australian National Rugby League (NRL) champions Melbourne Storm have been stripped of two Premiership titles and fined for breaching the league's salary cap.

The Storm, who have been hit with a $460,000 fine, will also lose all points earned so far in the 2010 season as well as being unable to accrue any further points in their remaining fixtures.

NRL chief executive David Gallop said the Melbourne-based side had exceeded the salary cap by at least $1.5million over a five-year period.

"They had a long-term system of effectively two sets of books and the elaborate lengths they have gone through to cover this up has been extraordinary," said Gallop on the official NRL Web site.

"It was through this system that they were able to attract and retain some of the biggest names in rugby league. In doing so they have let down the game, the players and the fans of the Melbourne Storm."

Since it began in 1998, the Storm have played in every NRL season and had won the competition three times prior to their 2007 and 2009 triumphs being rescinded.

Club chairman Dr. Rob Moodie has condemned the actions of previous board members and apologised to everybody connected with club.

"The rules are very clear and some former members of management have wrongly decided to break them," said Dr. Moodie in an official statement.

"I would like to sincerely apologize to our players, our staff, our sponsors, our members and our supporters."

The team's coach Craig Bellamy has expressed his disappointment at the recent revelations, and claimed the players will recover from the setback.

"This is an absolute shock to myself, to our football staff, to our players. Personally I am heartbroken," explained Bellamy.

"But this football club has great character and values. We will stick tight together as a group and fight our way back from this."