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Knights player Willie Mason, left, with Roosters player Sonny Bill Williams. Ready for another face-off. FROM the outside looking in, the Knights have had to deal with another series of disruptions in an abbreviated build-up to their game against the Roosters at Hunter Stadium tonight.
Since the emotionally charged ‘‘Rise For Alex’’ game against the Titans just five days ago, the Knights learnt coach Wayne Bennett will be returning to Brisbane, and teammate Darius Boyd checked himself into a mental health facility to be treated for depression.
Hardly an ideal lead-in to a game against the defending premiers, but Bennett believed his players had become accustomed to rolling with the punches this season.
Bennett said his decision to rejoin the Broncos was of no consequence, because he announced two weeks ago that he was leaving the Knights at the end of the season and it should matter little to the players where he would be coaching next year.
As for Boyd’s indefinite absence, Bennett said he and the players addressed that issue on Wednesday.
‘‘We got it resolved, and I don’t think it will have a huge impact on the boys. Last time we played the Roosters we played without him, because he was away with Origin duties, so I think we’re all handling it good,’’ said Bennett, who spoke to Boyd yesterday.
‘‘He was pretty settled and happy with what the process has [been] in the past 24 hours and thanked everybody for their well wishes, but he felt that he’d made a good decision and he was in the right place and he needed to be there right now.’’
Bennett said Boyd was aware of the mostly positive response from the rugby league community, and was heartened by comments from his Queensland coach Mal Meninga and Maroons and Australian teammate Johnathan Thurston.
‘‘Overall I’m really pleased with the media,’’ Bennett said.
‘‘I thought yesterday the press conference was really good and sensitive enough to the situation and most of the reporting has been great.
‘‘There’s been the odd one, I would think, that probably hasn’t been, but I just said to him this morning that Mal Meninga had made some wonderful comments about him and Johnathan Thurston – people that he knows and trusts – and I think he was pleased to hear that. But other than that, he wouldn’t have watched the news service and he wouldn’t buy a paper.’’
Bennett believed the support services provided to players by all NRL clubs and the game’s governing body was bordering on ‘‘overkill’’ but it was preferable to bygone eras, when mental health issues were considered a sign of weakness.
‘‘I think we do it pretty well now, to be honest with you,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s so much out there inside the clubs at the moment to help these players, it’s just incredible. It worries me sometimes that we’ve got overkill.
‘‘When they leave us, I don’t know, they’ve got to grow up somewhere in their life, so it’s a fine line, but the game does take their welfare very seriously and I’ve got no complaints about the game and how they treat the players.’’
Boyd, who has been tipped by some pundits to follow Bennett back to the Broncos at the end of this season, could have played his last game for the Knights as he has told teammates and officials he will not return next year.