KNIGHTS legend Ashley Gordon believes the NRL club acted harshly in sacking Albert Kelly yesterday for disciplinary reasons.
Gordon, who is a liaison officer for the Knights’ indigenous players, has been mentoring Kelly since he joined the club’s NSW Cup side in April.
Kelly appeared in Newcastle Local Court on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to smashing a light at Newcastle nightspot Fannys on April 26. The incident is believed to have led to the termination of his contract.
Kelly was discarded from Cronulla this season after he was involved in a string of alcohol-related incidents.
The five-eighth joined Newcastle Rugby League club Central Newcastle in March and soon attracted interest from the Knights, who signed him to a second-tier contract.
Gordon had not been told of Kelly’s sacking when contacted by the Newcastle Herald yesterday in Brisbane.
‘‘It’s a bit of a shock because I originally thought they were going to invest some time in him, particularly as he’s new to the club, and we all know his ability and what he’s capable of doing,’’ Gordon said.
‘‘I was hoping to work with him much more closely, too, but obviously it’s not going to happen now.’’
When asked if he believed the Knights’ decision to cut Kelly loose was harsh, Gordon said: ‘‘In my opinion, yes, because he’s so talented and really he hasn’t done a lot wrong while he’s been here.
‘‘It’s just a matter of guiding, assisting and putting some structures in place in his life, and if those structures are in place, you’ll probably find his football will go to a new level.
‘‘It’s sad, but hopefully Albert stays positive and we can get him back there.’’
Kelly had been serving a suspension from the Knights for the past two weeks and it is understood coach Wayne Bennett had stepped in to prevent the club sacking him immediately.
The Knights would not reply to requests for comment but referred the Herald to quotes attributed to chief executive officer Matt Gidley in an online forum.
‘‘There is no doubt Albert is a talented young player who obviously had some issues off the field while living in Sydney,’’ Gidley said in the forum.
‘‘We offered Albert an opportunity to move to Newcastle to focus on his rugby league career under the guidance of Wayne Bennett.
‘‘Unfortunately, due to further disciplinary reasons, Albert has recently had his NSW Cup contract suspended, then terminated.
‘‘We wish Albert the best of luck in fulfilling his rugby league potential in the near future and thank him for his efforts whilst at our club.’’
Central have pledged to retain Kelly, who is out injured after he tore his hamstring against Western Suburbs on Sunday.
Butcher Boys coach Paul Davis is Kelly’s uncle and admitted his nephew needed to address off-field issues in his life.
‘‘What he probably needs is a good off-season, get into another club and, if he plays in Newcastle, or wherever he’s playing, hopefully he can attract the interest of another club in the NRL,’’ Davis said.
‘‘What he needs to do is control his off-the-field stuff and really get on top of that.
‘‘His missus is due with their first baby in a couple weeks and I think that’s something that might settle him down a bit more.’’
Davis said he was disappointed in the Knights’ decision.
‘‘It’s not been a happy time for Albert in the last six months,’’ he said. ‘‘He would probably rather be playing NRL, but these are the obstacles and hurdles you have to face. ‘‘It’s a matter of how he bounces back.’’