WAYNE Bennett’s compassion may have saved Albert Kelly from the scrap heap after the Newcastle Knights suspended the young playmaker yesterday from their NSW Cup side for an alleged code-of-conduct breach.
The Newcastle Herald understands that the former Cronulla halfback was involved in an off-field incident during the week and some within the club were poised to sack him.
Kelly, the 21-year-old who played 14 first-grade games for the Sharks and represented Australian Schoolboys in 2008, was dismissed by Cronulla in March after a series of alcohol-related disciplinary breaches.
He initially signed with Central Charlestown and then the Knights included him in their reserve-grade squad.
He was expected to play for the Knights’ seconds at Ringrose Park against Wentworthville Magpies today but has been stood down, pending a full investigation.
Sources told the Herald that Bennett’s advice to his powers-that-be was that they handle the matter with a degree of sympathy.
It is not the first time this season the master coach has been prepared to show faith in a troubled player.
He was quick to pounce when Brisbane sacked Dane Gagai for a series of disciplinary breaches.
Bennett was willing to give the 21-year-old a chance, and he scored a try on debut in last week’s loss to Canberra.
Former Test prop Willie Mason was also unwanted by every other NRL coach, presumably because of his controversial and colourful reputation. But Bennett rolled the dice and Mason has rewarded him with some quality performances.
Kelly started to struggle last season when he was sidelined with a broken leg for five months, after which he appeared to go off the rails.
Knights chief executive Matt Gidley and coach Wayne Bennett declined to comment.