Bulldogs supremo Phil Gould has lashed a group of Newcastle Knights players over their eye-opening mid-season trip to Bali. The Knights have the bye this week and as such are the only NRL club that won't be in Brisbane for Magic Round.
Newcastle's players were reportedly given nine days off, which has raised eyebrows considering the club sits in 14th on the ladder and has lost the last three games on the spin. The Daily Telegraph reported that some players used the extended break to travel interstate or along the NSW coast with friends or family, while a small group decided to take the opportunity to fly to Bali.
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It's understood club Kalyn Ponga stayed in the Hunter to continue training after returning recently from his latest concussion. However, the timing of the Bali trip - coming off the back of Newcastle's chastening 43-12 loss to the Eels in round nine - has left Gould and other league identities questioning the club's decision.
“It might turn out to be the best thing, getting over there with some warm weather and sun on their backs. It might be the answer, I don’t know. And if they come back (and win) they will say it is the answer," he said on the Six Tackles with Gus podcast. “But there’s three byes this year, you do it three times I guarantee it’s not going to help you.
Knights coach Adam O'Brien explained after the Eels defeat that his side looked like they needed the extended break. “I think it’s been a really big month on-field and off-field. There’s some stuff going on that you’d know about then obviously losing (Jayden Brailey to an ACL injury),” he said.
O'Brien went on to offer Newcastle's two golden point games this season as further evidence to explain his side's early season fatigue. However, Gould said he never would have used an extended break to go on a mid-season trip overseas, as a player or coach.
“Maybe (coach Adam O’Brien) thought after what he said after the (Eels loss), maybe they’re a bit busted," Gould added “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.”
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Speaking on NRL 360, co-host Paul Kent also got stuck into the Knights group who had travelled to Bali and suggested time on the training ground would have served the team better. “The thing about it is this, it is a professional game and I get the need for players to get time away from the game,” he said.
“But we are in the middle of the season and the Knights were given nine days off after the Parramatta game, nine days just eight weeks into the season, which I think is extreme. The pendulum has probably swung given the Knights are sitting 14th.
"I think those nine days, eight weeks into competition could have been better spent going and working on their game rather than holidaying in Bali or wherever else they’ve gone." Co-host and former NRL star Braith Anasta agreed and said his teams "used to get flogged" by the coaching staff when they had a bye round.
“You might get three or four days off, a long weekend but you would get towelled up," Anasta said. Kent even went as far as suggesting that the Knights players should have had their privileges revoked after the performance against the Eels.
“They were playing like they were already thinking about their nine days off," Kent said. “They didn’t earn the time off. After the game Adam O’Brien or someone at the club should have said, ‘you know what guys, 43-12, not good enough’. It was a shocking performance and they had every right to say ‘guys you blew your holiday, you’re coming back to work on Monday’.”
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