AS the Newcastle Knights stand firm despite a public outcry to sack Russell Packer, the Newcastle Herald can reveal club official Ben Rogers is facing two assault charges after an incident at a charity fund-raiser.
Mr Rogers, pictured, the former five-eighth who played 30 games for the Knights between 2009 and 2011, is now employed as the club’s community and charity support manager.
In the early hours of September 1 last year, Mr Rogers is alleged to have punched two men in an incident captured on closed-circuit television at a taxi rank outside Wests New Lambton.
He was charged with two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and has appeared twice in Newcastle Local Court.
The matter has been adjourned until January 20.
He has pleaded not guilty.
The Herald was unable to contact Mr Rogers yesterday but he issued a statement via Twitter last night.
‘‘I was involved in an incident in August last year,’’ he tweeted.
‘‘It goes before the court soon & I intend on defending the charges against me.’’
The incident occurred a few hours after the Down Town Ball, a charity function in support of Down Syndrome NSW, for which Mr Rogers is the Hunter Region ambassador.
He was not arrested on the night of the alleged incident but was charged by Newcastle Police on October 8.
The Herald has been told a verbal stoush turned physical and two men suffered facial injuries.
One of them required stitches in hospital.
Mr Rogers joined the Knights in 2009 after stints with Penrith, South Sydney and St George Illawarra.
He played 19 NRL games in his first season at Newcastle. He was forced to retire from rugby league during the 2011 season after a second shoulder reconstruction.
He then started working with Hunter Sports Group as a corporate sales executive and was nominated by the Knights that season for the Ken Stephen Medal, awarded each season to the player the NRL ruled had made the most outstanding contribution to the community that year.
On Mr Rogers’s LinkedIn internet profile, he states that: ‘‘I work across all levels of the organisation (e.g. executive, corporate partners, charity partners, players, volunteers and supporters) and manage a number of significant professional relationships.
‘‘The strong profile of the Newcastle Knights is used to make a positive difference to people’s lives and my role is responsible for all aspects of this strategy.’’
Asked for a comment yesterday, the Knights replied with a text message, which read: ‘‘The club is aware of an incident last year. In accordance with club policy, [the] club won’t make any comment until the legal process is complete.’’
Packer, Newcastle’s major off-season signing, was jailed for two years for an assault labelled ‘‘cowardly and deplorable’’ by magistrate Greg Grogin.
The former Warriors prop bashed a man unconscious and stomped on his head, leaving him with facial fractures.
Knights officials released a statement on Tuesday that said they would defer any decision on Packer’s future with the club until after his appeal date on February 11.