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Bennett's future at Knights in doubt

Wayne Bennett admits his future at the Newcastle Knights is up in the air and will remain in doubt until the NRL club solves its ownership crisis.
Bennett's future at Knights in doubt
by AAP

By Ben Horne

SYDNEY, May 18 AAP - Wayne Bennett admits his future at the Newcastle Knights is up in the air and will remain in doubt until the NRL club solves its ownership crisis.

The supercoach says no one at the organisation has any idea whether their current contracts will be honoured if Nathan Tinkler's ownership of the Knights comes to an end, as is expected.

The Knights Members Club have issued Hunter Sports Group (HSG) with a deadline to hand back control of the club by the end of the week, however for the buying process to begin, the signatures of Tinkler and HSG chief executive Troy Palmer are required.

If that ultimatum isn't met, the ownership battle is set to go to the courts.

The issue came to a head on Friday, when 20 staff and players, including Bennett weren't paid their monthly wages.

Bennett's contract with Newcastle was signed with HSG and not the Knights and if Tinkler's reign is indeed over, the final year of the 64-year-old's four-year deal will be cast into doubt.

He expects the situation to become clearer within the next week.

"Until the new ownership model is in place no one knows what the future is here to be honest with you," said Bennett on Sunday.

"Once it's in place they might make different decisions so we'll have to wait and see.

"I've got no idea what the new model will be and I've got to wait and see like everybody else.

"I don't have a position on it (ownership). I haven't been asked my position on it and it's got nothing to do with me. Other people run the administration of the club and I don't want to get involved.

"I'm as much in the dark as anybody else is but I would think next week a decision should be made and we all will know where we stand."

Bennett has the unenviable task of getting his team up for an NRL match on Monday night, with the Knights facing a fourth straight defeat if they go down to Manly at Brookvale Oval.

To compound the uncertainty gripping the club, Bennett revealed Origin hopeful Beau Scott (stomach) will join the list of unavailables for Monday night - although the back rower would be in no doubt for State of Origin I if selected.

Newcastle are also missing Joey Leilua and Jeremy Smith.

Bennett says he's spoken to staff and players about the payment situation and believes all are focused on the match at hand.

Newcastle legend Andrew Johns said he'd spoken to Knights players and confirmed the mood in the camp was dire.

"Morale is low. You can see by on-field performances," Johns said on Channel Nine's Footy Show.

Fullback Darius Boyd is reportedly owed upwards of $200,000 on failed third party deals and he's also believed to be one of the players not paid last week.

The Queenslander has been noticeably poor this season, with another Knights great Matthew Johns believing that the payment crisis has something to do with Boyd's form.

Matthew Johns said on Triple M on Sunday that there were rumours doing the rounds that Bennett's relationship with Tinkler has become "strained to say the least."

Manly coach Geoff Toovey was at the ill-fated Northern Eagles when players weren't being paid back in the early 2000s and expects the Knights to power through the controversy.

"Coming from a club that's been through some of those dramas I think it galvanises a side," he said.

Canterbury remain on top of the ladder after notching their seventh-straight win over the Warriors, while Cronulla are last after falling to Wests Tigers 22-20 on Saturday night.

Parramatta and Melbourne moved into the top four with emphatic victories over St George Illawarra and South Sydney respectively.


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