Senior Knights players rally behind Bennett

HELPING HAND: Jarrod Mullen wants Wayne Bennett to stay at the Knights.SENIOR Knights players hope coach Wayne Bennett and the club’s new owners can settle on a deal to ensure the seven-time premiership-winning mentor sees out the rest of his four-year contract in Newcastle.
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Though he has signed until the end of 2015, Bennett said his future remained ‘‘unclear’’ since the NRL replaced Nathan Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group on Friday as owners of Newcastle’s NRL franchise.

In announcing the official handover at a media conference at Hunter Stadium on Saturday, NRL chief executive Dave Smith said he hoped the league’s stint in charge was short-lived, and that a Newcastle or Hunter-based organisation or consortium took over for the long haul.

Bennett wants to continue coaching in the NRL, but whether that is at the Knights will be determined by discussions he has with club management and, he said on Saturday night, whoever took the reins from the NRL.

‘‘I still don’t know whether they’ll be able to resolve the issue or not because it will be the model that they finish up with in the end, and that will be the people that I’ll be answerable to, not the NRL, so at the moment it’s unclear,’’ Bennett said.

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley told the Newcastle Herald that the process to fill the seven positions on the new Knights board could take some time, but he hoped ‘‘to be in a position to appoint a coach prior to the end of the season’’.

Hardly surprisingly, Newcastle five-eighth Jarrod Mullen and prop Davd Fa’alogo see Bennett as the only option.

‘‘Obviously I’d love to have him here,’’ Mullen said yesterday. ‘‘He’s been a big influence on my career in the three years he’s been here.

‘‘He’s taught me a lot about the game and myself, so I’d love him to stay. But obviously he’s got a family to worry about, and himself, so whatever he does, I’m sure everyone will support it.’’

Mullen, who signed a new four-year deal in April to extend his tenure until the end of 2018, was pleased to hear the club’s ownership wrangle had been sorted.

‘‘All that off-field stuff has taken care of itself, so it’s good that it’s all settled now and everyone knows where they’re going,’’ he said. ‘‘I suppose it’s more the staff that are under a bit of pressure, but all the players’ contracts are going to be fulfilled.’’

Fa’alogo has Bennett to thank for giving him a second chance in the NRL.

After leaving Souths at the end of 2009, the hard-nosed New Zealand and Samoan international played three seasons for Huddersfield in the English Super League, then Bennett signed him last season to a one-year deal at the Knights.

The 33-year-old enforcer signed a one-year extension that expires at the end of this season, but he hopes to back up again next year.

‘‘I’d love to see Wayne hang around, and so would the rest of the players,’’ Fa’alogo said yesterday. ‘‘He’s been a great coach and I’d love to see him here next year.’’

As for his own future, Fa’alogo said: ‘‘I haven’t spoken to the club yet. That’s probably something that’s going to come up pretty soon, and I’ll be looking at hopefully a bit of news in the next few weeks maybe. The body’s holding up pretty good, my footy seems to be going pretty well at the moment. It’s just the results are not.’’

Meanwhile, Fa’alogo had no complaints about Jared Waerea-Hargreaves escaping punishment for striking him with a raised forearm in Newcastle’s 29-12 loss to the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.

Bennett and Knights captain Kurt Gidley protested after the match that the Roosters enforcer used a raised forearm on Fa’alogo in the 60th minute and Newcastle lock Jeremy Smith in the 72nd, but the NRL match review committee found Waerea-Hargreaves had no case to answer.

‘‘That’s footy. That happens on the field,’’ Fa’alogo said, describing their collision as an ‘‘unfortunate accident’’.

‘‘I don’t look at complaining about it afterwards.

‘‘It is what it is. He’s a tall player and he goes into contact the way he does.

‘‘That’s similar to every other tackle that I’ll make, but there’s no complaints from me.

‘‘We work on our technique at training and the refs do the same thing. If they don’t see anything wrong, so be it.’’

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