KNIGHTS coach Wayne Bennett said the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority had year-round access to Newcastle players and that rugby league was cleaner now than at any other stage of his long coaching career.
The seven-time premiership-winning former Queensland and Australian coach spoke at length after training on Tuesday after Newcastle was one of six NRL clubs referred to in the Australian Crime Commission's report.
Knights chief executive Matt Gidley joined counterparts from the five other notified clubs - Canberra, Cronulla, Manly, North Queensland and Penrith - in Sydney on Tuesday for an ASADA briefing, then individual meetings. Bennett was certain the Knights, during his 18 months as head coach, have not been involved in any of the issues raised. The ACC's year-long investigation exposed links to organised crime, match fixing and the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
''All our books, anything they want here, it's available,'' Bennett said. ''Look, you've got to understand what wide-ranging powers they have now, so this is what makes it even more confusing for me. They've got all the players' phone numbers, they've got all our training timetables, these guys get tested 24/7.
''There's no restriction. They have done blood tests, they do urine tests - the list is endless. They [ASADA testers] can be here for two, three hours until players can do a urine test, whatever, after games.''
Bennett said he was called to appear before the ACC three months ago to answer general questions pertaining to rugby league and his experience as a coach rather than anything specifically related to the Knights.
''It was broad-ranging, from my point of view, because I'd been to three clubs in five years and coached a lot of rep teams, and they wanted to get a bit of a feel about what I kind of knew,'' he said. ''But as I told them … I've never seen the game cleaner.''