KNIGHTS chief executive Phil Gardner said he would be reminding players of their responsibilities as role models after forward Jacob Saifiti was knocked unconscious and left with a broken leg outside a Newcastle hotel on Sunday.
Saifiti is facing disciplinary action and also surgery that could sideline him for three months after an alleged incident involving Central Newcastle first-grader Dane Cordner, the brother of NSW and Australian skipper Boyd Cordner.
Knights officials said in a statement on Monday that Saifiti was involved in “a verbal altercation with a patron” at the Greenroof Hotel in Hamilton, and both men were asked to leave the premises by security staff.
“After Saifiti left the establishment, he and a man came together,” the club statement said.
“There was a push and shove which resulted in Saifiti suffering a punch.”
The Knights said Saifiti fell awkwardly and was subsequently taken to hospital, where it was confirmed he had broken his leg.
Knights chief executive Phil Gardner said the matter was being investigated by police and described it was “an unfortunate incident between two people who knew each other”.
Newcastle have also informed the NRL’s integrity unit.
Asked if he was disappointed in Saifiti, who was involved in an after-hours confrontation with his twin brother Daniel earlier in the year, Gardner replied: “I think that’s an understatement.
“Our expectation is that the players live up to their responsibilities in the community.
“They’re role models in the community. We expect them to be role models in all ways, so this is disappointing.”
Gardner said it was a timely reminder for Newcastle’s players about the need to “make sure that everybody entertains themselves responsibly”.
“If you’re in a licensed premises, then you need to behave appropriately,” Gardner said.
“If you’re leaving the licensed premises, you should make your way home.
“Altercations outside licensed premises are inappropriate for you, for me and for rugby league players.”
Gardner said the Knights would wait for police to complete their inquiries before deciding if Saifiti should be sanctioned.
“Once we’re fully aware of all the facts, we’ll make a decision on whether disciplinary action needs to be taken or not,” he said.
The Saifiti drama overshadowed what was a momentous occasion for the Knights – Test prop David Klemmer’s first training session with the club since signing a five-year deal.
It is understood Saifiti has told Knights officials he did not throw a punch, and that he and Cordner had previously been on friendly terms.
Newcastle’s director of football, Brian Canavan, briefed players before training on Monday to inform them of Saifiti’s condition.
“We’re not entirely across it,” new signing Tim Glasby said.
“Obviously any injury is disappointing in any way, but fingers crossed he can have a quick recovery and he’s back sooner rather than later.”
The setback could hardly have come at a worse time for 22-year-old Saifiti, who has appeared in 47 NRL games for Newcastle and seven Tests for Fiji.
A fractured shoulder blade he suffered playing against Gold Coast in May, which needed two bouts of surgery, restricted him to just eight games last season.
He was hoping for a big pre-season to push his selection claims in a new-look and vastly stronger Newcastle engine room.
While you’re with us, did you know The Herald is now offering breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up-to-date with all the local news - sign up here.