Ghosts stand by Danny Wicks
THE Grafton Ghosts Rugby League Club has ignored the prospect of a sponsor backlash over the signing of alleged drug trafficker and former Newcastle Knights star Danny Wicks.
Ghosts president Michael Rogan said the club would stick by its former junior player, who has fallen on hard times.
“If he was a blow-in, it would be a different story,” Mr Rogan said.
“Danny’s a former junior who played all his football here before he went away to play in Sydney.
“The club is happy to help a young bloke sort his life out.
“People who just see us signing NRL star Danny Wicks have got to realise that his family is friends with most of the people in the club.
“All his mates that played with him before are with the club and he won a premiership with us.
“The players have welcomed him back with open arms.”
Mr Rogan said that while there was no doubt Wicks would be a huge addition to the Ghosts in 2010, it was the chance to help out one of their own that made the decision for them.
He was also sorry that the younger Wicks brother, Brett, was forced to leave the club.
“If it hadn’t been for the bail conditions that said the brothers could not contact each other, Brett would be playing with us as well,” Mr Rogan said.
The Wicks brothers were targeted in a police drug trafficking operation that culminated in raids in Newcastle and Grafton in December that led to their arrest, along with a number of other people. They have both received bail and part of their bail conditions is that the brothers do not contact each other.
Both brothers have said they will vigorously fight the charges.
Brett has received a clearance from the Ghosts to play with rival club, the Grafton Rhinos, but that club has been cautious about taking him on.
Yesterday, Rhinos president Tony Stackhouse said the club would have to rethink its plans to offer the younger Wicks a contract.
“The committee will have to make a decision after talking over the issues,” he said.
Former Rhinos president, committeeman and general manager of major sponsor Black Toyota, Danny Scott, said the committee would need to consider the club's corporate image and its sponsors views.
Two Rhinos sponsors have expressed disappointment at the lack of consultation over the prospect of signing Brett Wicks.
Geoff Jones, the owner of Holiday Coast Meats, a sponsor of the Rhinos, was dismayed to learn the Rhinos might sign Brett.
He said rugby league was confronting image problems caused by the conduct of players and drug and alcohol issues.
“They shouldn’t be employing players that have got pending charges hanging over them,” Mr Jones said. “I don’t believe it is a good move at all. It’s bad for the sport.”
He threatened to withdraw his sponsorship of the club if Wicks took the field in Rhinos colours.
“I would have expected the club’s executive committee to consult me and the other sponsors before they make decisions like this,” he said.
Another sponsor, who did not want to be named, aired similar views about the lack of consultation.
However, not all sponsors share this viewpoint. Matt Dougherty, from Ghosts sponsors L J Hooker, welcomed the news that Danny Wicks would turn out for the Ghosts this season.
“I’m excited at the prospect of seeing Danny Wicks play for the Ghosts. It’s going to get people coming through the gate,” Mr Dougherty said.
“Having a powerhouse like Danny playing is going to be a boost for the club.”
The CEO of the Australian Rugby League, Geoff Carr, weighed into the debate yesterday.
“The Ghosts and Country Rugby League will be the bodies that eventually decide Danny’s future,” Mr Carr said.
He said there were a number of recent precedents for players to take the field while facing criminal charges. He pointed to the cases of Greg Inglis, Brett Stewart and Anthony Lafranchi as players, who stayed on the field while fighting serious criminal charges.
He said it was also important to consider that Danny was under no suspension from the NRL and it was also important for his rehabilitation for him to keep active and playing sport. Mr Carr declared an interest in the case as he and the Wicks boys’ father, Gary, were friends at school and have maintained contact over the years.
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