Knights set to welcome back Filipo

FORMER Knights back-rower Marvin Filipo could return to the club in May, a year after they sacked him for his involvement in an off-field altercation.

The development comes as the Knights consider the future of controversial recruit Russell Packer, who will appear in Downing Centre Local Court on January 6 after he was charged three weeks ago with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and failing to quit licensed premises.

Packer faces the prospect of spending at least next year on the sidelines as the NRL has refused to register the four-year contract he signed with the Knights in October.

The Knights terminated Filipo’s one-year contract in May this year but, at the time, chief executive Matt Gidley said they would consider re-signing him at the end of the season.

Filipo, who joined French Elite One Championship club Limoux Grizzlies in October on a short-term deal, spoke to Knights officials at their Mayfield headquarters yesterday.

The Newcastle Herald understands Filipo will train with the Knights tomorrow in their final field session before they break for Christmas.

He is back in Newcastle for a two-week holiday to spend the festive season with his daughter and other family and friends, then will return to France to complete his contract with Limoux.

‘‘good to be back at @NRLKnights headquarters today. in talks for a return back in May!!,’’ the 26-year-old former Junior Kiwis representative tweeted yesterday.

In a Twitter conversation with @sYe2388, Filipo joked: ‘‘good behavior bond over. lol’’.

Earlier yesterday, he tweeted: ‘‘after a few months in the south of France its gud to be bk in familiar territory for the holidays. meeting wid the old coach should be good!’’

Filipo faced a Knights disciplinary hearing in May to explain his involvement in an off-field altercation. No police charges were laid, and Filipo said he was provoked by a racist slur, but the Knights found that he had breached the club’s code of conduct and tore up his contract.

The Herald has been told Knights coach Wayne Bennett believes Filipo has served his penalty, and he is seriously considering giving the 2012 NSW Cup representative player of the year a second chance at the club.

In a text message to the Herald on May 22, Gidley said: ‘‘Marvin has been released from the remainder of his 2013 contract. The club has remained in contact with Marvin and will review his position at the completion of this season.

‘‘As this was an internal matter, the club will be making no further comment.’’

Gidley would not comment yesterday.

Filipo will fly back to France early next month but hopes to finalise a deal with the Knights for at least the second half of the 2014 season. Clubs have until June 30 each year to register players and finalise their roster.

His manager, Peter Brown, told the Herald yesterday that he was unaware of Filipo’s meeting with the Knights yesterday but said a reconciliation was an option.

‘‘We did have a discussion with Wayne at the end of the season, and he did say to give him a call if he [Filipo] is keen to come back, but at this stage we haven’t done anything,’’ Brown said.

‘‘I just wanted to get him to France and get him settled in. He’s only been there a couple of months.

‘‘He went there at the end of October, and the latest he would finish up would be next May, when the finals are on, because they finish their regular season around mid-April.’’

Though he would not discuss the events that led to Filipo’s sacking, Brown said the player and the club had ‘‘moved on’’.

Brown was confident the circumstances surrounding Filipo’s departure would not have a detrimental effect on his chances of signing a new deal with the club.

After being sacked by the Knights, Filipo tried his hand at professional boxing. In his only fight to date, a four-round heavyweight bout at Newcastle Panthers on August 30, he lost a majority decision to fellow Kiwi Nathan MacKay.

In the lead-up to that fight, Filipo told the Herald he hoped to rejoin the Knights if the opportunity arose.

‘‘Hopefully I can return next year, but who knows? They said all I have to do is the right things while I’m off contract and hopefully a door opens for me there,’’ Filipo said.

‘‘I’d love a chance to make things right again.’’

Auckland-born Filipo was developed by the New Zealand Warriors then joined the Knights in 2011 on a second-tier contract after two Newcastle Rugby League seasons with Nelson Bay.

He played two National Rugby League games for the Knights in 2011 and another two in 2012.

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