SOME people have suggested Newcastle chairman Robbie Tew and CEO Steve Burraston are simply trying to save their own necks rather than do what’s best for the Knights. How do you see it?
They are playing real-life fantasy league. They do not keep their board informed and they are the only two people who make decisions at the club. It is not a community club. I was proposing this transaction for the benefit of the Newcastle community. We are involved in a range of other community projects with groups who are keen to work with us and we will devote our attention towards them in future.
Have you given up on taking over the Knights? Will you ever walk away from the club?
My offer has been rejected. I have not walked away but the Knights’ proposal is not capable of acceptance. There are plenty of other charities and sporting groups that appreciate our support and will benefit from this. We look forward to working with them.
Is it now up to the members to get rid of the board?
That is not my call.
You said previously you could not understand how a city that exports 40 per cent of the state’s wealth still struggles to finance a footy team. You said it was incomprehensible, not exactly a ringing endorsement for the current management structure. Can you comprehend the negative campaign Tew and Burraston appear to have mounted against your takeover bid?
It has been disappointing but the Knights have a long tradition of not being able to help themselves. I believe the community deserves better.
Are you sick of dealing with them?
They appear to be solely focused on disaster scenarios. I am surprised they dare go outside.
What has been the most frustrating aspect for you during this whole process?
The lack of commercial awareness and the poor advice the Knights are being given. This transaction has proven to be beyond them and their legal advisers as we have seen from their statements.
Do you feel there have been deliberate hurdles to block your deal?
Messrs Tew and Burraston appear to be the only ones involved in any decision-making process. Everyone else is in the dark. I am certain they knew their proposed changes to our offer of assistance were not capable of being accepted. This scenario has gone to plan for them.
Do you think their constant questions are in the best interests of the club?
I believe our offer would be accepted by nearly any other NRL club. It was an offer that I wanted the community and members to see as very good value and guaranteeing the future and success of the club for the region. My mistake was probably not guaranteeing Tew’s and Burraston’s future involvement at the club.
Why do you want to be involved in the Knights?
The Knights are a massive part of the fabric of Newcastle. I believe the community deserves to have a strong competitive club that is well managed and capable of winning premierships – not struggling to survive with the aim of making the semi-finals. To play for the Knights and be involved with the club should be considered a privilege. I think you only get that from developing junior talent and this management has not given our community much to cheer about, on or off the paddock.
What do you say to claims you haven’t been open and honest in the offer you have made to the members?
I am very comfortable with the conduct of myself and my team. The best interests of the Newcastle community have always been at the top of our agenda. Clearly, offering to underwrite club sponsorship, develop junior talent and ploughing all profits from the club back into its junior development is not good enough for these guys.
Would you back yourself to turn the Knights into an NRL super club if you were given the green light?
Absolutely. The Knights need to rid themselves of their cannibalistic culture of infighting and struggling. It’s not a happy club and that culture needs to be reinvigorated. There is a reason we can’t attract talent to the club under its current management.
Kade Snowden. Did you ring him last week to talk about returning to Newcastle? Have you spoken to him at all?
Yes I did. I didn’t tell anyone. I don’t need permission to use a phone and local talent should always be first priority. I believe he will be the best prop in the game for the next five years, and as a local talent he belongs in Newcastle. Kade would sweat for the blue and red like Chief, Sarge, Butts and other great front-rowers for the Knights. I don’t believe kids grow up aspiring to play outside their local NRL team, so he should return home and play for the Knights.
Was an offer ever made on your behalf?
No. I just asked, what’s the hurry? I didn’t realise he was being pushed to sign a new deal and had no clue the Knights had walked away from signing him. Kade should wait till the end of the year. His price is only going up.
Would you like to see him back at Newcastle?
All Knights supporters should. It would scare all clubs for us to get Kade back because it would give us an enforcer again. We haven’t had one since Craig Smith retired but we can produce one. The Chief, Sarge, Butts were all great hard men for Newcastle who the community still honour today. Kade is of that ilk and can be that for Newcastle for the next five to six years.
Is your vision to have as many home-grown players back playing for the Knights?
Absolutely. Name me the last local player to come through the Newcastle competition or Group 19, Group 21 or Group 3? We even let talent like Inglis, Idris and co escape. We have established a strong culture of beating ourselves when it comes to developing talent. Andrew Johns playing reserve grade straight out of school might have been pushed out of the club under this management. Kade Snowden was playing front row in first-grade at 19 and they still couldn’t keep him? One of the only guys to move on, why? Because he could attract another club. The Knights get left with the rest and that’s why we struggle.
Can you understand why Newcastle’s current board would want it any other way?
Winning is a culture – you either have it or you don’t. They don’t.
What about Jamal Idris. Would you like to see him in Knights colours?
Show me an NRL coach that doesn’t want Idris and I will show you a liar.
There has also been speculation you’d like Wayne Bennett on board. True or false?
Who wouldn’t? Any coach needs cattle and I would not be confident Wayne would take this squad on. He is a master coach and a master at identifying talent. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear though and while coaching the likes of Kurt Gidley must be appealing to him, I am not sure he would be attracted to the current roster. Why take that on when you are a legend of the game whose legacy will be talked about for generations and you have your pick of nearly any club in the competition? Having said that, I think I could be very persuasive with him!
I read recently that Russell Crowe had actually advised you against trying to get involved with an NRL club. Do you wish you had taken his advice?
His advice to not get involved was personal but, like Russell, my offer was an act of community and about giving something back. Russell and his management team have made a really positive difference to that club and that community and they should be congratulated. They don’t have a premiership yet but they are already winning.
Would you like to meet face to face with the fans and the members to explain your proposal?
I have met with many already. Unfortunately, members can’t accept the offer unless it is proposed by the board. I think we have wasted enough time. I think the whole thing is very unfortunate. Let’s get on with running 10th! Looking forward to the season.
How do you respond to claims by Tew that your final offer to buy the club was a “pale imitation” of the $100 million bid initially proposed last month? Tew also claimed you had moved the goalposts before withdrawing the offer to buy out the club.
The Tinkler Group has responded to the claims of Newcastle Knights chairman Rob Tew. We stand by the $10 million per year commitment in sponsorship and corporate hospitality guaranteed over 10 years to the club as presented last month. There have been no material variations to the offer and it is now clear that Mr Tew did not understand the original offer. As we presented to the board, TSG was prepared to underwrite the difference between the annual sponsorship of the club each year and the $10 million each year. Our offer and guarantee make no mention of membership or ticketing revenue. It is unfortunate Mr Tew has sought to misrepresent our offer and indicates he is not interested or capable of determining the value of our proposed commitment.