Rugby League

Joseph Tapine breaks silence on Newcastle Knights contract drama

Joseph Tapine has broken his silence on his contractual saga, claiming Newcastle "turned their back on me" after he took up a rich deal to join Canberra next season.

Tapine is taking legal action against the Knights after the club banished him from team training, overlooked him for the weekend trial against the Raiders and excluded him from the team photograph.

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If Newcastle refuse to release him to the nation's capital on Monday, he will become the first NRL player in history to rescind a contract based on the repudiation of said contract by his employer.

The drama began when Tapine knocked back a $1.1 million Knights extension in favour of one worth up to $2 million, the value of his Canberra deal if the option for a fourth year is triggered. Having missed out on their man, the Knights then floated a bizarre player swap that involved shifting Tapine to the Roosters in return for a player of their own. However, Tapine has no intention of playing for three clubs in the space of eight months and wants only to join Canberra after being told he would be in Newcastle's NSW Cup squad.

The drama threatens to overshadow Newcastle coach Nathan Brown's return to the NRL ranks and will likely make off-contract players wary about shifting to the Hunter.

"I hold Nathan in great respect, which is why I'm so disappointed," Tapine said. "I've done everything I've been asked of me by the club and trained as hard as I could. 

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"I was really looking forward to being part of the team this year and adding to my 20 first-grade games and developing my career. I love Newcastle but, as Nathan himself told me, I had to take the Canberra offer because it was too good to turn my back on.

"Nathan told me to take it and said if it was his son, he would have told him to take it too. That's why I thought I had his support moving forward with my career. To then be told to train alone, to leave the team environment and be told you're never going to be picked again because of what I've done, I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

Canberra bound: Joseph Tapine.
Canberra bound: Joseph Tapine. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

"It just makes me feel confused. I tried to do everything right, when I was talking to Canberra I kept Newcastle in the loop all the way through the process.

"I didn't break any rules in taking the Canberra offer, I was all geared up to play for Newcastle but then they have turned their back on me. It's a pity Nathan has put him and myself in this position because neither of us deserves to be in it."

Tapine's manager, Jim Banaghan, said his client was left with no choice but to take the legal route.

"Newcastle have been given until Monday to allow common sense to prevail," he said. 

"It's very unfortunate because the kid loves the club, but you can't be shown the door and forced to train alone in a team sport. Newcastle have dug a hole that big for themselves that Nathan Tinkler would have got himself a mining license for it."

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