Knights wait on drug investigation

 THE Knights are on tenterhooks as they wait for the NRL to inform them whether they are one of a handful of clubs facing further investigation by the Australian Crime Commission.

Federal Justice Minister Jason Clare said yesterday that individual NRL and AFL clubs named in the ACC’s damning report could make that information public if they wanted to.

But new NRL chief executive Dave Smith, ‘‘bound by strict legal constraints’’, said the league was still a day or two away from telling clubs if they were being pursued.

Six NRL clubs were at the centre of the ACC’s ongoing investigation, it was reported yesterday.

The Knights received no formal or informal  correspondence over the weekend from the NRL pertaining to the ACC inquiry, according to club sources.

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said last night that he had nothing further to add to his statement in the Newcastle Herald on Saturday, when he said ‘‘we’ve got absolutely nothing to hide and we’re doing all we can to co-operate with this process’’.

The ACC announced on Thursday that a year-long investigation into all levels of professional sport had revealed links to organised crime, match-fixing and the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Shortly after the ACC media conference, representatives of the NRL’s hastily formed integrity unit visited the Knights’ Tudor Street head office to conduct a forensic audit.

It was reported that Manly and Cronulla were raided before the ACC’s explosive public revelations, and Newcastle and Penrith were audited several hours later.

Smith said the NRL would communicate with affected clubs at an appropriate time, then it would be up to those clubs to publicise that information if they wanted to.

Speaking to ABC Television yesterday, Justice Minister Jason Clare said: ‘‘We’ve given the names of the clubs to both the NRL and the AFL. 

‘‘And the NRL and the AFL have asked for permission to tell the clubs that are affected by the investigation.

‘‘The Crime Commission agrees and we’re taking action to allow both the NRL and the AFL to tell the clubs that are involved in this investigation.

‘‘And then it will be up to the clubs to put their hand up and say, ‘Yes, we are one of the clubs that are affected by this investigation.’’’

The Knights’ history is tainted by three major drug-related scandals.

But Bennett, who began coaching the club in November 2011, was certain Newcastle players had been ‘‘absolutely squeaky clean’’ on his watch.

‘‘I can’t speak about prior to my arrival at the Knights,’’ he said.

‘‘But I can talk about time I’ve been there as a coach.

‘‘And I know my own standards and I know my staff standards, because they are driven by my beliefs and you know, we are absolutely squeaky clean,’’ Bennett told the ABC.

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