AN OFF-FIELD NRL row has exploded in court with fiery former Gold Coast Titans chairman Paul Broughton and wife Beverly launching a $500,000 defamation suit against ex-Papua New Guinea star Marcus Bai.
The Broughtons have filed for damages in the Southport District Court and are calling for a jury trial, claiming Bai made accusations of financial misconduct through a News Limited story earlier this year.
The news comes as the annual Paul Broughton Medal for the Titans' best and fairest was presented on the Coast last night.
Bai and the Broughtons formerly worked together on the PNG NRL licence bid team but Bai quit in 2009 fearing millions in government funding was being wasted on a futile bid.
Earlier this year Bai publicly called for the PNG government to launch an inquiry into allegations the PNG bid consortium, led by the Broughtons, squandered almost 8 million kina ($3.55 million) of 20 million kina ($8.8 million) in government money in an attempt to clinch the next NRL licence.
The Broughtons quit in 2010 and the PNG bid team is being led by former Roosters and Cowboys player Brad Tassell.
Mr and Mrs Broughton are suing Bai for $250,000 and $240,000 in damages, claiming his comments cost them lucrative business deals and damaged their reputations.
Last night Bai, the former Gold Coast winger who won a premiership with Melbourne, said he was "surprised" the Broughtons were suing but he would take it up with his lawyer.
In court documents filed on September 27, Mr Broughton, 82, said Bai's comments had led to his sudden retirement in March from his $4166.66 a month position as honorary chairman for his beloved Titans.
However he told the media at the time he was retiring due to the club's financial problems. "I see myself as part of the system that hasn't really worked," he told the Bulletin in March.
"They need someone in there who is capable of rescuing them. I've done the best I can."
He claims he lost $87,500 as a result of ending the contract which was due to end in December 2013.
The claim also states Bai's comments cost Mr Broughton an $18,000 contract with the Central Queensland NRL licence bid team and a $60,000 sale contract for their joint travel agency, Nitto Australia trading as Events Travel, the official travel agent for the Titans.
Mr Broughton is also claiming Bai's comments will impact the sales of his forthcoming biography "based on the life of (Mr Broughton's) integrity throughout his work in rugby league and business more widely".
The documents, filed by Hickey Lawyers, claim the comments have made the Broughtons' business opportunities in PNG untenable and they no longer feel safe to travel there.
Mr Broughton could not be contacted on Thursday and his lawyers declined to comment.