Dutchy defends Ben after hammer blow

JETS coach Gary van Egmond said on Wednesday the incident that has left star midfielder Ben Kantarovski nursing a season-ending broken jaw was ‘‘unprovoked’’ and could have happened to anyone.

Kantarovski is facing surgery to repair a double fracture in his jaw after he was punched outside an inner-city nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning.

It is understood he was trying to intervene in an altercation between two other men when he was struck.

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The 21-year-old told Jets officials he was not affected by alcohol and the club said in a statement that police were not involved. 

He was nonetheless fined an undisclosed amount and disciplined by Newcastle management.

Van Egmond said at Wednesday’s weekly media conference that he sympathised with Kantarovski  because he had ‘‘worked so hard’’ to return from a knee injury that had sidelined him for three months.

‘‘I think he has a lot of remorse for the situation he’s in,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘He’s 21 years of age.

‘‘Certain responsibilities come with that, as a professional football player. It could have happened to anyone. 

‘‘My understanding is it was unprovoked.’’

It was the second incident involving Jets players at the same nightclub in recent months. A group of contracted Newcastle players were ejected from the premises in December after an altercation on the ground floor.

On that occasion, Jets management issued a statement which read, in part: ‘‘The situation did not involve a Jets player but was an associate of a player. The club has investigated the matter and now consider it closed.’’

Asked if the Jets would  ban their players from the venue, van Egmond said: ‘‘I must admit it’s not a place I would go to.’’

Van Egmond said the incident was ‘‘a wake-up call to everyone’’ and his players ‘‘know exactly what they should and shouldn’t be doing’’.

‘‘It’s hard to put old heads on young shoulders sometimes, but in the case of professional athletes, you’ve got certain responsibilities sometimes,’’ he said.

Newcastle chief executive Robbie Middleby declined to comment, as did Kantarovski.

The former Young Socceroos skipper is understood to have addressed his teammates to apologise for leaving them a man short for the rest of the season and to warn them of the pitfalls of late-night socialising.

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