Wayne Bennett wanted to help change Packer

Last updated 21:40 21/01/2014
Russell Packer
Fairfax Australia
BEHIND BARS: Russell Packer is in the process of appealing his jail sentence.

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Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett admits he's disappointed he never had the opportunity to work with Russell Packer and help the controversial New Zealand Test prop turn around his bad boy image.

The former Warriors' forward was jailed for two years earlier this month, which he is appealing against, after being found guilty of assaulting a man in Sydney last November.

Packer was subsequently sacked by the Knights without playing a single game for the club having signed a four-year deal at the end of last season.

The 24-year-old, who was fined A$15,000 last year by the NRL for urinating on the field during a Warriors game against Brisbane, was put behind bars by a magistrate for fracturing the eye socket of a 22-year-old man following a disagreement outside a Sydney bar.

Former police officer Bennett, who has never shied away from signing players who have endured problems off the field during his long career, said he was confident the culture at the Knights could have helped Packer.

"My upbringing is probably as much to do with how I handle situations and people. I saw a lot when I was young and was taught a lot of lessons," Bennett told Newcastle's KOFM Rush Hour show.

"The great tragedy with Russell is that we never had the chance to work with him. We have a great club here with some very strong young men and we could have helped him."

However, the seven-time premiership-winning coach said the front-rower had no one else to blame for his predicament.

"The reality of the situation is you've elected to be a rugby league player and there are some things that go with that," he said.

"But the bottom line is, that's the job you're in. You have to adapt to it and you have to take the good with the bad.

"I tell these guys here these are the rules you've got to play by guys.

"You get treated differently as in Russell's case, you've got a profile, you're going to get yourself into trouble, you're going to be treated differently.

"That's the price you pay for being a rugby league player. If you don't want to pay that price, well go work for BHP, go work for Telstra, go work for whoever you like."

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