Knights fire back at Phil Gould amid furore around players' Bali trip

The outspoken Bulldogs supremo has been put in his place over the Newcastle drama.

From left to right, Phil Gould and a trio of Newcastle Knights players.
Phil Gould was among the most vocal critics of Newcastle's decision to give their Knights players an extended mid-season break. Pic: Getty

Newcastle Knights director of football, Peter Parr, has hit back at the media uproar around his club, amid revelations a group of players travelled to Bali after being granted a mid-season break. The Knights have the bye this week and will be the only NRL club not taking part in Magic Round in Brisbane, which kicks off at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

Gould was among the most vocal critics of Newcastle's decision to grant their players an extended break after just nine rounds of the season. The Channel Nine commentator - who is also the Canterbury Bulldogs GM of Football - said the 14th-placed Knights squad should be training rather than holidaying in places like Bali, where a small group of players went to unwind.

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The Nine commentator said the players were paid to play and train and suggested they should "find another job" if they already needed such a long break after just nine rounds.

“Maybe (Knights coach Adam O’Brien) thought after what he said after the (Eels loss), maybe they’re a bit busted," Gould said on the Six Tackles with Gus podcast. “It’s a time to replenish, to treat your injuries, to get ready for the following week, and it’s a refresher course.

“I remember when I was a player and we had byes, (coach) Warren Ryan used to flog us. It put steel in your team, it put steel in your attitude. You are paid to train and play, that’s what you are paid to do. Find something else to do, find another job if you don’t want this job.”

Gould's comments were echoed by others on Fox League's NRL 360 panel but they haven't gone down well at the Knights, with Parr suggesting the Bulldogs supremo should keep his nose out of their business. “Our preference would be that people at other clubs worry about their own club,” the Newcastle director of football told The Daily Telegraph.

Parr insisted the Knights would run the football club their own way and be guided by the coaching staff and players about what they think is the best course of action to take over the season. He also suggested that less than six players had headed overseas, and that it was a one-off decision to allow the players to travel, ahead of two more byes later in the season.

"Lots of people have an opinion on how to best utilise your byes," he added. "Some people think you should get flogged, others think you should get away. We’ve got three games and then another bye so they won’t be going away on the next bye or the one after that."

Phil Gould warned over media comments

Parr's comments come after Gould was officially warned about his commentary of the game last week, amid growing discontent across the league world over his dual roles in the media and at the Bulldogs. Opposition clubs have reportedly been keeping tabs on Gould's often provocative media comments about refereeing calls, judiciary matters and other issues frequently relating to the Bulldogs.

Earlier in the season, Gould criticised the officiating in Canterbury's loss to South Sydney on Good Friday, slamming the decision to sin-bin Jacob Preston for a hip drop tackle.

Gould was formally warned against commenting on matters still subject to decisions by NRL CEO Andrew Abdo last week - but has since kept up his criticism, declaring referee Grant Atkins was too 'emotional' after being sworn at by Bulldogs gun Josh Reynolds last weekend.

Abdo denies suggestions the NRL is trying to silence Gould, but says he and other club officials need to be mindful about discussing judicial matters that are still before the relevant authorities. "My conversation with the Bulldogs was just around registered club officials not breaching the rules," Abdo said.

Pictured left to right, NRL boss Andrew Abdo and Nine commentator Phil Gould.
NRL boss Andrew Abdo says a warning to Phil Gould over his outspoken media commentary was not an attempt to 'silence' him. Pictures: Getty Images

"If there's a matter that's live, for example either a matter that relates to the match review or the judiciary or an integrity matter, the rules don't permit players or officials accredited under those rules to talk openly about it. That's what the conversation was about. This is definitely not about silencing anyone in the media. It's important everyone have their opinions.

"You guys (the media) do a great job for us, telling the stories to the fans. This is not about not wanting criticism, this is just about the rules that the NRL has for everyone accredited in the game. There's a reason why club officials aren't able to comment when a matter is live because we don't want the perception of that influencing the decision-makers."

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