Knights star Tautau Moga’s $380,000-a-season contract is in danger of being ripped up with the centre due to face court in March after being charged with assaulting a taxi driver.
The latest off-field incident involving a Knights player is alleged to have occurred outside a King Street venue after Moga had spent the afternoon at Newcastle’s Boxing Day race meeting at Broadmeadow with a number of other teammates.
Knights CEO Phil Gardner said his understanding of the incident is Moga has been charged with common assault for allegedly “slapping” the taxi driver.
If found guilty, Moga’s final two years at the Knights could potentially be terminated under tough new player behaviour laws that have already been implemented by the club along with any court-imposed penalty and NRL sanction.
Gardner chose his words carefully last night but admitted he could not rule any possible sanction out at this stage if the matter goes to court and Moga is found guilty.
“As with any incident we are forced to deal with, the facts have to be taken into consideration before any potential punishment is arrived at and that is the same here,” Gardner said.
“But we won’t be doing anything until the case has run its course.”
If prop Jacob Saifiti is now the yardstick, Moga could find himself in big trouble if he is found guilty.
Saifiti was fined $50,000 [half of that suspended] for his part in an incident in early December that saw him allegedly king hit and knocked out, breaking his leg outside a Hamilton hotel after a 12 hour drinking session.
The hefty fine was handed out by the club despite the police clearing him of any wrong-doing.
Given that Moga, who has featured in just four games for the club and is on the comeback trail after undergoing a fourth knee reconstruction last year, has been charged by police, the club will come under pressure to come up with a greater penalty than a fine if he is guilty of the offence.
Moga, who will continue training with the club, was spotted on Thursday in deep conversation with Knights’ welfare officer Dean Noonan.
Ironically, not long after, the playing group went into a meeting with members of the local police force at the club’s Mayfield base.
Down for count
It has been kept under wraps until now but we’re told a torturous boot-camp that Knights players were put through by Newcastle police just prior to Christmas claimed at least two victims.
Two players, youngsters Mitch Andrews and Brayden Musgrove, were hospitalised with dehydration during the 32 hour ordeal with players getting next to no sleep.
Everyone in the squad was forced to carry a brick with them without putting it down for the entire 32 hours as part of a grueling test of body and mind.
There are few more determined, committed characters playing rugby league than injured Knights hooker Slade Griffin.
Griffin, in rehabilitation after a fourth knee reconstruction that required two operations, has set himself a comeback target date of Round 16 in early July and there won’t be too many who will doubt he will make it.
With the hard-working hooker off contract at the end of the season, his NRL career could well hinge on those final eight games and how well he returns from his huge setback.
Canberra Raiders have thrown a career life-line of sorts to discarded Knights hooker Tom Starling.
Starling, who didn’t figure in the Knights’ plans this season despite getting an NRL debut off the bench in the final round against the Dragons last season, had signed with Tweed Heads and was in training with the Queensland Cup side before taking a call from Raiders recruitment guru Peter Mulholland.
The up-shot is the young hooker arrived in the national capital this week on a train and trial basis with a view to the Raiders potentially signing him at the end of it.
He has bunked in with former Knights junior halfback Brendan O’Hagan.
Bellamy bowling them over
Wayne Bennett may have the record and Jack Gibson the sentimental vote but you won’t get any argument from this column that Craig Bellamy is rugby league’s greatest ever coach.
So what are the secrets behind his success? How has he managed to turn Melbourne Storm into an NRL juggernaut over such a long period of time? Is Cameron Smith the smartest referee in the NRL?
All these questions and plenty more will be answered when the Melbourne Storm coach is the special guest of the Charlestown Cricket Club for a luncheon early next month.
Tickets to the February 6 function at Charlestown Bowling Club are $140 a head for a two course meal with beer and wine or $1300 for a table of 10.
Seats at the club are limited and are already selling quickly.
Anyone keen to attend should ring the Bowlo club on 49433766 or go on-line to www.stickytickets.com.au/79064 to book a seat or table.
In a real bonus for the coaches of Newcastle’s eight district cricket clubs, they will have an opportunity to sit down to a private dinner with Bellamy to pick his brain the night before the lunch.
Cessnock has signed the brother-in-law of luckless Newcastle Knights centre Tautau Moga.
Backrower Tevita Cottrell, who played South Sydney Under 20’s a couple of years ago and also represented Fiji in a Test against Papua New Guinea, is currently living with the Mogas and has linked with the Goannas for 2019.
“He’s been to a few sessions and looks like a talent,” Cessnock coach Todd Edwards said.
“He’ll definitely bolster our forward pack.”
South Newcastle coach Andrew ‘Bobcat’ Ryan has enlisted some heavy-weight support as he prepares for his first fulltime coaching gig.
The former Bulldogs premiership-winning captain is expected to have ex-Knights premiership-winning coach Michael Hagan and former Knights Under 20’s coach Todd Lowrie in his corner this season.
Hagan had a similar advisory role with Ben Cross at the Lions last season.