Boganaire no knight in shining armour

Here's an idea for Nathan Tinkler: call another meeting with Knights members as he did when he was trying to wrest control of the club three years ago, and tell the same people who allowed him to sweep to power exactly where they stand.

In other words, tell them if he has enough money to continue to fund their club, or if he does not.

Simple.

Because, to be quite frank, this continual game of smoke-and-mirrors about the club's financial state is becoming a little boring, if not insulting to those who trusted him in the first place.

The dogs have been barking in Newcastle for many, many months about Tinkler and his tenuous ownership. You sense the rottweilers are about to be let off the chain, and the “Boganaire” is in their sights.

The Knights have been at breaking point at so many times since their inception in 1988, and still won two premierships and produced a legion of Australian and Origin players.

Yet the close of business on Tuesday looms as the most important deadline in their recent history.

By then, Tinkler needs to show the Newcastle Knights Members Club he can produce a new $10.5 million bank guarantee by the end of the month, or the members will start the process of buying the club back for a dollar.

That’s their right. Thank heavens for former chairman Robbie Tew for putting such a guarantee in place before handing the reins to the former billionaire.

There are faint murmurs coming out of Newcastle that Tinkler will be able to find the money at the 11th hour, as he has done on numerous occasions since buying the club in 2011.

And should that happen, the Knights - from chief executive Matt Gidley to chairman Paul Harragon to the players themselves - will say the club’s future was never in doubt.

Move on, nothing to see here.

“We have heard nothing at all to suggest there is a problem,” Gidley said last week. “Nathan has to renew the guarantee every year, so 10 days out from the deadline each year, we could conceivably have this sort of speculation about whether he is going to continue or not.

“You’d rather it wasn’t blown up hysterically but that’s the reality and until Nathan meets the deadline, I guess we just have to put up with the speculation.”

Speculation?

One of Tinkler's major financiers, Westpac, appointed external administrators at two of Tinkler’s companies late last week.

Westpac took the extraordinary step of releasing a statement to assuage the fears of Knights fans concerned about the demise of their beloved club.

“We have been in discussions with the Tinkler Group for quite some time about existing exposures with Westpac which includes a bank guarantee to support the Newcastle Knights,” a spokesman said in a statement.

Speculation?

Reports in The Newcastle Herald last week that some players had not been paid on time were dismissed by veteran prop Willie Mason.

"I'm not sure where the little whispers are coming from,” Mason said. “It's always like that when you lose, everyone tries to bring up crap. If you check everyone's bank accounts, I'm pretty sure everyone's getting paid.”

Well, we checked with several player managers, who would have more of an idea than their clients if the players had been paid on time.

We can tell you what they’ve told us before: some players were certainly not paid on time.

It doesn’t matter if you are making $70,000 a season or $700,000. If you’re paying a mortgage or have a car repayment coming out on a certain day of the month, you need to be paid on time.

The same player managers report there have been long delays with superannuation being paid for the past year. This is a complaint this column has heard before, and it does not happen at any other club.

But not according to the Knights. Move on, nothing to see here.

What about Tinkler’s dwindling fortune? Companies placed into receivership? His repossessed private jet? The selling off his horse racing and breeding operation, Patinak Farm?

Speculation? Move on, nothing to see here.

Tinkler, a former Muswellbrook sparkie, rode into Newcastle and said he was all about “community”. He delivered the most successful coach in history in Wayne Bennett, and a bulging salary cap of superstars.

The good rugby league people of the Hunter were finally being handed a commodity they have never really had when it came to their footy team - certainty.

But instead of galvanising the community, with each proud member falling in behind their team and knockabout owner, the new regime has polarised a staunch rugby league region.

Fans buy The Newcastle Herald each day, slowly turn the page and wonder, “What next?”

They have dealt with uncertainty before. They have survived contractual disputes, drug scandals, the sudden departure of their best player in Andrew Johns, and an ugly cleanout under former coach Brian Smith.

But this is different.

Tinkler has caused a serious disconnect between club and fan, and the chasm appears to be widening.

The members want to know if Tinkler still cares like they do. If he still has the money to support them as he once assured. And, above all of that, they want the Boganaire to give them what he promised all along - certainty.

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