Rugby League

'We're not dragging our feet': Knights defend Tapine contract mess

Newcastle Knights CEO Matt Gidley said negotiations are progressing to release Joseph Tapine this season to Canberra, but he wants to ensure his club is fairly compensated.

Gidley spoke with Raiders CEO Don Furner on Thursday afternoon and Knights coach Nathan Brown and his Canberra counterpart Ricky Stuart have also been in talks.

Joseph Tapine is at odds with the Kinights after signing a contract with the Raiders.
Joseph Tapine is at odds with the Kinights after signing a contract with the Raiders. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Tapine's contractual wrangle has become increasingly messy. On Wednesday his manager Jim Banaghan lodged a formal complaint to the NRL because his client had been excluded from Knights training after he signed a three-year $1.5 million deal with the Raiders from 2017.

"We're not dragging our feet on this," Gidley said on Thursday. "I had a conversation with the Canberra CEO this afternoon. It's all moving forward.

"Like any negotiation it takes a bit of time. We need to make sure it's in the club's best interest that we're exploring all options under the proposed release, so that's what we're doing. I don't think anyone wants it to go any slower than it needs to."

The clubs are investigating a player swap, a Canberra buy out, or an early release which would clear room in Newcastle's salary cap. It is understood the Raiders are highly unlikely to entertain a player swap.

It has created an intriguing subplot for Saturday night's trial between the clubs at Orange.

"Nathan and Ricky have had a number of conversations around some opportunities with some players and they will continue to do that," Gidley said.

"If they can find some agreement somewhere, then fantastic. If not, we'll look at another option.

"They are good friends and have a great relationship, so I think if Nathan identifies a player who can improve our team, there's going to be no delay. Ricky will give him a yes or no quickly."

The Sydney Roosters were interested in a player swap for Tapine this season, but Gidley said Tapine was unwilling to join the Bondi club.

"He was certainly a player that could have come and strengthened our side in the short-term and longer term as well," Gidley said.

"We could have played hardball there, but we recognised it was in Joe's best interests to go to Canberra given he's going next year and beyond, rather than jump around the Knights, to the Roosters to Canberra in 12 months."

An NRL spokesman said: "we've been in touch with the Knights and we expect the club to resolve it."

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