Newcastle Knights trainer Hayden Knowles has broken his silence and cleared up one of the biggest misconceptions to come out of his argument with David Klemmer last week.
Klemmer was stood down after an expletive-ridden outburst aimed at Knowles in the final 10 minutes of Newcastle’s loss to the Bulldogs.
While initial reports suggested Knowles was the one to instigate a HR investigation into the incident, it was later confirmed that Newcastle management made that move.
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Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald for the first time since Sunday’s events, Knowles said he felt like his “reputation has taken a hit”.
“The swearing wasn’t the issue,” Knowles said, clearing up what he saw as a big misconception to come out of the dramatic week that was.
“That’s what everyone is losing sight of. For me it’s not personal with Klem. It wouldn’t matter if it was Kalyn Ponga, Nathan Cleary, Junior Paulo or Payne Haas. It wouldn’t matter who it is.
“If someone puts themselves before the team, I would forever die by the fact that I won’t tolerate that behaviour.”
Knowles told The Herald he has a “very, very close” relationship with Klemmer and that in the end, all he was trying to do was “uphold the set of standards this team needs”.
“That’s what leaders do,” Knowles said.
“Sometimes leadership is tough. Sometimes you have to put the value of the team before anything, no matter who the person is. If our club, our roster, our management want success, they should be thanking me for trying to uphold the set of standards this team needs.”
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Klemmer was hit with a suspended fine for his actions but will be available for selection in next week’s clash with Brisbane.
Knowles admitted that the situation could have “been handled” better after Newcastle management reported the incident to HR.
“The word HR has made it worse,” he said.
“Phil (CEO Phil Gardner) wanted a report and wanted to hear from everyone. The behaviour was there for all to be seen. Ideally, it wouldn’t have been handled like this. But that’s not my problem.”
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The Knights claimed a much-needed 14-10 win on Sunday to move past Sunday’s drama, having come under intense scrutiny for their handling of the Klemmer incident.
Cameron Smith was particularly strong when speaking on SEN Radio earlier in the week, calling on the Knights to “be better”.
“Well it’s strange really. If words were spoken between a player and a trainer, that’s happened a thousand times before,” Smith said on ‘The Captain’s Run’ on SEN Radioon Thursday.
“I’ve seen it first hand, I think you have as well. It’s not a new thing. I’m really confused as to why this is such a huge problem.
“The way I’ve seen it dealt with and sorted out in the past is that if there’s an issue… it’s dealt with in-person after the match.
“It’s just unnecessary. Like seriously, how bad have the words been spoken between David Klemmer and this trainer, to have a formal complaint made. It’s just ridiculous. Deal with it man to man.”