KNIGHTS coach Wayne Bennett would prefer to have waited until the end of the season to welcome Dragons utility Beau Scott to Newcastle.
But Bennett said he and the Knights were only playing by the game’s ‘‘diabolical’’ rules in which a year-round player market exists instead of specific transfer windows, which apply in other sports, or the NRL’s long-defunct June 30 deadline.
The Knights announced on Friday night that they had signed Scott to a four-year deal, reportedly worth almost $2million, starting in 2013.
At that stage, the 27-year-old NSW and Australian utility had played just one game for the Dragons this season: their 15-14 extra-time victory over the Knights at Hunter Stadium on March 1.
Following Darius Boyd, Adam Cuthbertson and Alex McKinnon, Scott is the fourth former Dragons player to leave the club to join Bennett in Newcastle.
The Knights are reportedly chasing Dragons back-up hooker Cameron King.
Former St George Illawarra players Chris Houston, Neville Costigan, and brothers Wes and Kevin Naiqama joined the Knights before Bennett arrived.
Dragons chief executive Peter Doust was diplomatic in his response to Scott’s signing, but he and club officials are understood to be furious to have lost another player to Bennett, and Red V fans vented on talkback radio and internet forums at the weekend.
‘‘Every week, and every month, for the rest of this season, there will be a drama with a player leaving a club,’’ Bennett said yesterday after Newcastle’s 18-6 victory over Cronulla at Toyota Stadium.
‘‘So let’s not use Beau Scott as an issue for Newcastle or anybody else, OK?
‘‘It’s been going on for the last five years.
‘‘It’s been diabolical.
‘‘You know that. I know that.
‘‘So don’t pick on us about Beau Scott.
‘‘We just do what every other club’s done, mate. You’re either in it or you’re [not].
‘‘If you’re not in it, you’re gonna miss out, because there’s no one to recruit in September. They’re already taken.’’
Bennett believed the Knights would play into the hands of rival clubs by claiming the high moral ground and waiting until players were off contract before pursuing them.
‘‘You’ve been in enough press conferences with me, and you’ve read enough things that I’ve said over the years,’’ he said.
‘‘You know my position on it. I’m not going to repeat it here today. You know what my position is. It’s diabolical for the fans and the game. Nothing’s changed.
‘‘But we’re not going to be disadvantaged and [not] do what everybody else is doing by trying to have some type of code. It won’t work.’’
Asked if he thought it was unfair that he was being painted as a villain by signing former Dragons players, Bennett said: ‘‘If I let the criticism worry me, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. So you keep writing it because I won’t be reading it, but it’s not going to worry me.’’
Speaking in a radio interview last year, Bennett raised the issue of the NRL revisiting an internal and external draft to assist in controlling the transfer market.
That debate flared again at the weekend in the wake of Scott’s signing, and the example of the Roosters announcing last November that they had signed Warriors playmaker James Maloney to a three-year deal starting in 2013. Maloney is in the final year of his contract with the Warriors this season.
Bennett said yesterday that a draft was not necessarily the right solution for the NRL.
Former NSW and Australian centre Terry Hill successfully challenged the draft in 1991, when the High Court ruled it was anti-competitive and threw it out.
‘‘It works in other codes in the world and in this country, but maybe the opportunity’s not there for a draft because of what’s happened in the past,’’ Bennett said.
‘‘But on the other hand, I’m sure if the [Rugby League] Players Association and the league thought it was in the best interests of the game they could do a deal on it, where the players may get a fair bit of compensation from the league to allow them to have a draft, but it may not be the answer, the draft.’’