KNIGHTS officials have given outstanding tyro Peter Mata’utia a last warning despite clearing him of serious misconduct arising from an alcohol-related incident on Sunday morning.
Mata’utia was arrested after an altercation in Darby St at 1.50am and spent the night at Newcastle Police Station.
Police were unable to interview him at the time because of his level of intoxication.
Yesterday the Knights issued a statement that read: ‘‘The police have confirmed that no charges will be laid following a minor incident involving a Newcastle Knights player last Saturday night.’’
The Newcastle Herald can reveal the player involved was 21-year-old utility back Peter Mata’utia, who played in five first-grade games last season and is regarded as one of the club’s brightest prospects.
Mata’utia was hauled in yesterday to front Knights chief executive Matthew Gidley and coach Wayne Bennett, who is renowned as a teetotaller and strict disciplinarian.
Bennett is understood to have laid down the law in no uncertain terms to Mata’utia, who has been in hot water with Knights officials over previous off-field indiscretions.
Asked whether Mata’utia would be sacked if he infringed again, Gidley was reluctant to comment, saying only: ‘‘He’s walked out of here today knowing absolutely what the consequences will be if he steps out of line again.
‘‘His manager knows exactly where he stands. That was made very, very clear.’’
Gidley said that after speaking to Mata’utia and police, the Knights were satisfied it was a ‘‘minor incident’’.
It is understood Mata’utia was arrested after a physical confrontation with a family member and was taken in by police to sober up.
Nonetheless, given the negative publicity the incident attracted, the Knights have taken a firm stance even though Mata’utia was not charged.
‘‘We wanted to send a clear message right now about the way we want to handle any type of player misbehaviour,’’ Gidley said.
‘‘We will be tolerant. If there are minor things or first offences, we’ll take that into account.
‘‘But it’s a repeat thing, you have to deal with it yourself.’’
Gidley indicated it was unlikely that Mata’utia would be fined because it was hoped the warning would be sufficient.
He denied that Mata’utia, who has not played this season after tearing knee ligaments in January, had violated club policy by drinking while injured.
Gidley said players were given a ‘‘red card’’ when they were initially injured but it was then up to the individual to be responsible for their actions.
‘‘When the injury happens, there is a 72-hour [no-alcohol] period around when the injury is diagnosed,’’ Gidley said.
‘‘Then we put the onus back on the players to get themselves rehabbed and back in full training.
‘‘We’re not going to stop a player who is out injured having a glass of wine at a birthday or anything like that.
‘‘But Pete’s been back in full training for a few weeks now.’’
An Australian Schoolboys representative in 2008, Mata’utia is the eldest of four brothers – the others are Chanel, Pat and Sione – who club insiders believe can all be playing first grade together within five years.
Peter made his NRL debut in round 11 last season, scoring a try against Sydney Roosters, and impressed Bennett enough to secure a two-year contract.
The Raymond Terrace junior is expected to feature in the top grade later this year but will first have to return through Newcastle’s NSW Cup team.
Mata’utia was unavailable for comment yesterday but Gidley said he was remorseful.
The NRL are awaiting a report from the Knights into the incident.