Troy Palmer leaves ICAC after giving evidence.

Troy Palmer leaves ICAC after giving evidence. Photo: Edwina Pickles

You have to hand it to Hunter Sports Group chief executive Troy Palmer – he has a hide like a rhinoceros and more front than Grace Bros.

That is the only conclusion we can draw from Palmer’s appearance this week at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Less than 24 hours after taking the stand at ICAC, Palmer was on location for the announcement that Phil Stubbins will be coaching the Jets for the next two seasons.

Nathan Tinkler will face the ICAC on Wednesday.

Nathan Tinkler will face the ICAC on Wednesday. Photo: Nick Moir

When Palmer was asked in casual conversation how things had gone the previous day, he replied: ‘‘I smashed it.’’

Having read the ICAC transcripts, I would love to ask Palmer exactly what part of his testimony he felt he ‘‘smashed’’.

Presumably not the bit where counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson, SC, accused him of providing evidence so ‘‘inexplicably stupid’’ that it had to be a figment of his imagination.

Sadly, unlike Watson, about the most yours truly has been able to get out of Palmer for the past couple of years is a ‘‘no comment’’ via text message.

It has been a similar story whenever the Newcastle Herald has contacted the Knights or Jets for their thoughts on any of the myriad issues that have surrounded the city’s sporting flagships during HSG’s brief but turbulent tenure.

More often than not, the official response is to post a cursory, often vague statement on the club’s website, culminating in a familiar line: ‘‘There will be no further comment from the club.’’

It is unclear how this fits with a pledge on the (apparently now-defunct) HSG website, which declared: ‘‘We always act in an honest, transparent and pragmatic manner.’’

Obviously there is no obligation on anyone – except, perhaps, politicians – to talk to the media. It would be presumptuous to think otherwise.

But after the revelations of the past couple of weeks, I can’t help feeling envious about the scrutiny Watson is able to enforce.

It is wishful thinking on my behalf, but just imagine if journalists had the same ability to extract answers as ICAC.

Imagine being able to ask a straight question and demand a straight answer.

What an easy job this would be.

Of course, the appearance of Palmer and an associate, Buildev boss Darren Williams, at ICAC has been merely the entree, whetting the public’s appetite. The main course will be served up on Wednesday, when HSG owner Nathan Tinkler settles into the hot seat.

Watson, presumably, will be quizzing Tinkler about matters such as allegations he attempted to bribe former Minister for the Hunter Jodi McKay and made illegal donations to political slush funds.

But imagine how good it would be if, on behalf of Knights members, he also took the opportunity to grill the big fella over certain unexplained matters relating to Newcastle’s NRL franchise.

Rather than pondering what is going on behind closed doors, the Novocastrian faithful would be enlightened by information they have waited too long to receive.

If yours truly was given five minutes in Watson’s shoes, these are the questions I would direct at the man labelled the Boganaire.

● Can you shed any light on the Knights’ accounts and, in particular, on rumours the club has liabilities approaching $20million?

● If that $20million figure is accurate, how do you intend to deal with it?

● Do you acknowledge, after defaulting on the bank guarantee, that HSG’s ownership of the Knights is now untenable?

● With regards to the Knights Members Club and its entitlement to buy back the franchise for $1 – after HSG defaulted on the bank guarantee stipulation – do you intend to challenge this in court?

● Would you have any interest in remaining involved in a proposed Knights ‘‘joint venture’’ given that you appear unlikely to be the dominant party and it would only continue to cost you money?

● Is your primary focus in these negotiations between the NRL, HSG and the members club simply to secure the maximum pound of flesh before you walk away?

● Do you believe the allegations in ICAC, albeit unproven, are damaging the reputation of the Knights (and Jets, for that matter)?

● Do you accept that the Knights are clearly in a worse position, on and off the field, than when you assumed control three years ago?

I won’t be holding my breath that those questions will be answered any time soon.

But when the dust settles, I have little doubt everyone will at least be able to read between the lines and draw their own conclusions.

Newcastle Herald