Off the Wall

It is impossible not to have sympathy for the Knights as the club confronts the crisis caused by a second leading player facing serious drug related criminal charges.

The loss of Chris Houston, who was charged yesterday, is arguably a significantly greater loss than that of his former housemate, Danny Wicks, who was charged with drug related offences last year.

Houston has been club captain, and no doubt came into contention for Origin selection in the last couple of years, and may have done so again this year. But he can forget about that, and his Knights career, at least for some time.

The court appearances by Wicks and Houston in the coming months will attract massive media attention, and distract from the Knights season, a season already undermined by the injury Kurt Gidley suffered in the All Starts-Indigenous match.

Time will tell just how much damage the charges and court appearances will do to the Knights fan base, and its sponsorship programme.

The club has handled the fallout from the charging of both players as best it can. There is no easy way to deal with such problems - but the Knights have responded swiftly standing down both players immediately after they were charged. The club and Wicks have since parted company completely.

We have to allow the court processes to run their course, and sadly, that is not going to happen with any measure of haste.

The issue will dog the Knights during the 2010 season - and possibly even beyond.

Rugby league is not alone in having to deal with players being charged with serious criminal matters. A high profile AFL player has recently been charged with rape, and a high profile rugby union player was last year charged with a break and enter offence.

There is absolutely no "upside" for any code, or club, when they are confronting such a position.

It is interesting that the AFL player, Andrew Lovett, is challenging his sacking by his club, St Kilda, and, after being suspended for the latter part of the season, the ARU has allowed Quayde Cooper to play for the Reds even though his court case remains to be heard mid-year.

It will be interesting to see whether he is chosen for the Wallabies mid-year!

The Knights are a vital part of the NRL. They have an upgraded stadium, and attendances have been very respectable. But the Knights have had more than their share of off field crises - including financial problems, and the fallout from Andrew Johns belated admissions a few years ago.

We have to hope the Knights management, and coaching and playing staff, can recover quickly from this debilitating setback. But it will be a herculean task!