UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Shaun Kenny-Dowall (left) leaves Downing Centre Court complex on Tuesday. Picture: Daniel Munoz
SHOULD the Newcastle Knights sign a player who has pleaded guilty to the possession of cocaine?
That is the dilemma the club is now pondering after Shaun Kenny-Dowall admitted to having 0.29 grams of the drug and was placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond but escaped a conviction at Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday.
Kenny-Dowall’s management werein talks with the Knights when the 29-year-old was busted by police with the drug at Ivy nightclub in May.The Kiwi international has since been released by the Roosters and is available to join Newcastlebefore the June 30 cut-off date.
Knights chief executiveMatt Gidley was non-committal when asked if they would reopen talks with the centre after reportedly withdrawing a four-year $1.2 million in the wake of his arrest.
“We are looking at a number of players who may be available prior to June 30,” Gidley said.
Football-wisea player of Kenny-Dowall’s pedigree and experience –he played 234 games for the Roosters, including the 2013 grand-final victory, and has 20 caps for New Zealand–would bolster a developing backline.
Coach Nathan Brown said the outcome of the court case was “favourable for Shaun as a player” and “good news for him”.However, he said a decision on the pursuitof Kenny-Dowall waslargely out of his control.
“I have always said that when something like this occurs it always heads to people above me,” Brown said.
Coach Nathan Brown says a decision on whether Shaun Kenny-Dowall joins @NRLKnights will be made by board. @newcastleheraldpic.twitter南京夜网/JISvH3RZar
— James Gardiner (@JamesGardiner42) June 20, 2017Heraldhas been told that the Knights board of directors have been instructed to discuss any big decisions with the Wests Group in the likelihood of a takeover later in theyear.Kenny-Dowall may beasked to appear before the Knights board.
Gidley said, as was the case with all significant signings,the Knights board would bekept“informed”of developments.
“They will certainly be aware of it, andthey will certainly be able to put their views forward, but at this stage we haven’t entered into any discussions,” he said.“We are purelyspeculating at this stage.”
Kenny-Dowall’ssolicitor Bryan Wrench told the court his client underwent urine and hair testing soonafter he was caught with a resealable bag of cocaineon May 5, provinghe did not take the drug, and had not used drugs in previous weeks.
“It still doesn’t excuse what he did, but this is a case where we can say it’s a one-off,” Wrench said.
Magistrate Greg Groginnoted Kenny-Dowall had lost his contract with the Roosters as a result of the charges, as well as his registration with the NRL.
“The collateral damage is huge,” Grogin said.”There’s no evidence of drug use by you either at the time of the incident … or in the many weeks prior.”
Grogin said he consideredKenny-Dowall’s early guilty plea, and the fact that it was his first offence when discharging him, and placing him on a year-long good behaviour bond.
It is not the first time the former centre has appeared in court.
The Kiwi national was last year acquitted of domestic violenceafter he was accused of headbutting, pushing and putting his former girlfriend Jessica Peris in a headlock.
TheHeraldunderstands that the Knights are also in talks withRoosters backline utility Connor Watson and Brisbane duo, centre Tatau Monga and propHerman Ese’ese.
It is unclear if any would be available this season.
“There are lots of players who may be available and things will probably heat up post Origin II (Wednesday),” Gidley said. “In the early stages of next week there will probably be various opportunities.As I have said all along, we are well positioned to bring players in and we will see what eventuates between now and next Friday (June 30).”
Gidley also confirmed that talks had begin with extending the contracts of captain Sione Mata’utia, fellow young guns Daniel and Jacob Saifiti and crowd favourite Nathan Ross.
“Thereare two aspects to our roster management –recruitment and retention,” Gidley said.“There are a number of the young players who are currently under contract that we are looking to extend.”
Meanwhile, the Knights have named an unchanged 17 to take on St George Illawarra at Jubilee Oval on Sunday.