Rugby league: Australian police investigate match-fixing in NRL

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian police have launched a major investigation into allegations of match-fixing in the National Rugby League and expect to interview "dozens" of players and officials in the latest scandal to rock the top flight competition.

New South Wales (NSW) state police said they had set up a special task force to conduct the probe, three months after making initial enquiries into allegations surrounding a number of championship matches last year.

"Police will work closely with the NSW Crime Commission, and have the full support of the NRL," NSW Police Force said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The investigation is expected to be protracted, with dozens of players, officials, and members of the community expected to be interviewed in the coming months."

The statement gave no details of the matches involved. The NRL said it would provide any assistance requested by police.

"We are not going to pre-judge any person associated with the game while this process is under way," NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said in a statement. "But I repeat my earlier warning that if any person is convicted of match fixing they will face a life ban from any involvement in rugby league."

In June, NSW police said their organised crime unit was in the "early stage" of probing match-fixing in the NRL after local media reported suspicions over two championship matches involving the Sydney-based Manly Sea Eagles last year.

The matches were against South Sydney Rabbitohs and a third Sydney side, Parramatta Eels, the Daily Telegraph newspaper said.

Last month, broadcaster Channel Seven reported the NRL were also probing a match between Manly and Parramatta.

NSW police have expressed concerns about NRL players forming relationships with underworld figures and have issued warnings to a number of them for consorting with criminals.

A senior detective warned in May that there had been "criminal infiltration" in the NRL.

The NRL was rocked by a corruption scandal in 2011 when former Ireland international Ryan Tandy was found guilty of spot-fixing in a match the previous year when playing for the Canterbury Bulldogs.

He was banned for life from rugby league, and months after losing an appeal against the charge in 2014 he was found dead due to a suspected drug overdose.