NRL boss Dave Smith.

NRL boss Dave Smith. Photo: Edwina Pickles

NRL chief executive Dave Smith cancelled a trip to Newcastle on Friday to announce the new Knights entity after an unexpected 11th-hour delay.

Fairfax Media was told on Thursday night that Smith would appear at a press conference at the Wests Mayfield club on Friday to discuss the end of Nathan Tinkler’s reign and the handover to new management, to be run by the NRL for an interim period.

The function was cancelled about 10am on Friday.

Both the NRL and Knights Members Club were happy for the media briefing to proceed but Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group – which had reportedly agreed to all terms and conditions more than a week ago – were still perusing documents one last time. ‘‘It’s disappointing,’’ one source said. The delay is mystifying, given that NRL head of club services Tony Crawford said last week the NRL and HSG  had ‘‘agreed on a package which would make the Knights financially secure’’ and HSG chief executive Troy Palmer said eight days ago: ‘‘The NRL and HSG have been agreed for weeks.’’

The process of removing Tinkler, the Knights’ first private owner, kicked off almost three months ago when Fairfax Media revealed he was struggling to raise  a mandatory $10.52 million bank guarantee. After protracted negotiations to remove HSG, the NRL has elected to assume control of the franchise until a new owner can be sourced.

Eight months ago Newcastle travelled to Sydney to face the Roosters in a preliminary final. On Saturday, the Knights make the journey down the M1 with virtually no prospect of finishing in the top eight, a devastating fall from grace for Wayne Bennett’s side.

 with AAP