Veteran rugby league journalist Phil Rothfield has accused the Newcastle Knights of not taking the Kalyn Ponga and Kurt Mann toilet cubicle furore 'all that seriously' after the players escaped sanction.
Ponga and Mann have escaped punishment over the toilet cubical drama after the NRL cleared the pair of any wrongdoing on Wednesday.
The Knights teammates, who are sidelined with injuries, were filmed being escorted out of a cubicle in a Newcastle pub earlier this month while the team was playing the Broncos in Brisbane.
The video prompted a two-week investigation by the NRL integrity unit, with the probe and a subsequent drug test widely criticised by the players' union.
But the investigation has now been closed, with the NRL deciding not to hand down any sanctions against the pair.
Newcastle also looked into the situation, with Mann injured at the time and Ponga sidelined for the rest of the season due to repeated head knocks.
But according to Rothfield, the lack of punishment from the Knights shows “there is still no culture” at the club.
“I am told they are not treating it all that seriously, that their captain and their injured teammate went out when they were supposed to be treating injuries,” Rothfield said on NRL 360 on Wednesday night.
“I think if nothing happens it shows that, despite the appointment of [new director of football] Peter Parr, there is still no strong leadership at the Newcastle Knights and there is still no culture there.
“Because you have got to be taking action… they were out drinking while injured, the captain of the club.”
Newcastle culture under microscope after toilet furore
Mann had been hoping to return from his quad injury in time for the final round of the season this weekend, but the utility failed in his bid to do so and will not face Cronulla on Sunday.
There was no confirmation from the Knights on Wednesday on whether they would hand down their own sanctions, amid earlier speculation Ponga could be stripped of the captaincy.
“I understand the NRL’s viewpoint, they don’t know what was in there, even if they were drug tested, if they tested positive we don’t know, even if they did test positive the NRL still couldn’t prove that anything happening in that cubicle,” NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent said.
Rothfield replied: “Kenty, it says everything about the culture, if this behaviour, one guy has finished seven games this year, it says everything about the club culture.
“He has finished seven games, their $1.1 million superstar, he is ruled out for the rest of the season, he goes to the pub with another injured player, he is drinking bourbon or whatever in a cubicle with his teammates and nothing happens.
“I don’t expect him to be suspended for a month… but it has been three weeks and nothing happened.”
Fellow journalist Brent Read said he believes the Knights will end up handing Ponga and Mann a fine.
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