KNIGHTS chief executive Phil Gardner has laid down the law to the club’s players after a series of off-field incidents, including an episode of “push and shove” involving twin towers Daniel and Jacob Saifiti.
Rumours have surfaced in recent weeks surrounding high-profile Newcastle players and their extra-curricular antics, prompting Gardner to make inquiries at a number of licensed establishments.
He was satisfied that nobody had breached the club’s code of conduct but nonetheless felt a blanket warning was warranted to remind players of their obligations when out in public.
“We have work to do on our standards of behaviour,” Gardner told the Newcastle Herald.
“Not just the new players we have brought in, but our local guys as well. The standards of behaviour need to improve. We’ll be taking a very tough line with anyone whose standard of behaviour is not what is expected of a professional rugby league player.
“These guys, regardless of who it is, are paid well to play rugby league and also to uphold standards when they are out in the community.
“We’ll investigate any time anything is reported to us, whether it’s a push and a shove or whatever, and we’ll deal with it under our code of conduct.”
In the past fortnight the Herald has been told of after-hours incidents involving former Roosters Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Mitchell Pearce, and the Saifiti twins.
Gardner confirmed there have been “a couple of minor incidents out there … [but] nothing that’s required me to do anything more than give them a kick in the pants”.
He said reports about Kenny-Dowall and Pearce had filtered back to the club.
“We’ve investigated both those and we spoke to the bar staff and security, and both those incidents, we’ve not had to take any action against the players,” Gardner said.
“What we have done is remind them that, hey, this is Newcastle, you’re on display.
“Here in Newcastle, everyone is interested and if our players go out, they attract attention.”
Moreover, Gardner added that if players misbehaved, his myriad connections around Newcastle would ensure he was informed about any transgressions.
“If something happens, I’m probably going to know about it before these guys get home,” he said.
Gardner said the Saifiti brothers were remorseful after admitting to a physical confrontation that occurred at home.
“The good part is the boys self-reported,” he said.
“They put their hands up and said they’re sorry. They were given the rounds of the kitchen, but we’ve actually moved on.
“Under the code of conduct, there was nothing that required us to take any formal disciplinary action.”
Gardner added: “Have you ever had a push and shove with your brother?”
He said players “are entitled to have social lives” but they needed to be “mindful” that they were role models.
“If anyone breaches those standards, under our code of conduct we have a range of options, from fines, to suspension, through to termination of contracts,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gardner was delighted with Newcastle’s 23,516-strong crowd for the season-opener against Manly and believes it will not be a one-off.
“We were actually concerned that the 6pm Friday start would impact on our crowd,” he said.
“That’s probably the toughest time slot, from a crowd point of view. There are obviously people who can’t get to the game at that time, so you would think other days will be even better.
“Our next home game is a Saturday night [against Brisbane on April 7], and we’re hoping for an even bigger crowd, especially if we can get a couple of wins in these next three games away from home.”