March 22, 2010
MELBOURNE fullback Billy Slater has apologised to Newcastle back-rower Cory Paterson for taunts that the Knights are certain targeted Paterson's mental health issues.
Slater and an enraged Paterson had to be pulled apart by teammates after a tackle in the 46th minute, before they engaged in a running war of words in the second half of Melbourne's 20-14 victory over the Knights at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Saturday night.
Paterson took a well-documented break from the NRL last season after announcing on April 24 that he was suffering from clinical depression and, at the lowest point of his mental breakdown, had suicidal thoughts.
Knights chief executive Steve Burraston said the club would not pursue the matter with the Storm or the NRL.
Burraston said he was unaware of exactly what Slater said but, based on what he had heard in anecdotes from several club sources, believed the Queensland and Australian fullback had crossed the line.
''No, we won't be taking it any further - we're happy to leave it on the field - but from my understanding, it was a pretty ordinary effort from Slater,'' Burraston said.
Paterson would not comment about the incident when asked in the Newcastle dressing-rooms shortly after full-time but, when contacted by the Herald yesterday, said: ''He knows what he said and I'll just leave it at that.''
Storm coach Craig Bellamy said yesterday that he was aware of the allegations against Slater but ''I wasn't out there so I've got no comment to make''.
Slater then issued a statement, saying: "I heard early this afternoon that Cory had an issue with something that was said on the field last night.
''I rang Cory immediately to discuss it and clear the air.
''What was said in that conversation will remain private but Cory has assured me that there is no ill-feeling between us. I wished him all the best at the end of the phone call and he did the same.''
Later, when asked about Slater's statement, Paterson said: ''He rang me this afternoon and apologised and I accepted, now can we leave it at that please''.
Knights coach Rick Stone was pleased Paterson and Slater had settled their differences. ''I think there is a line, for certain things, there's no doubt about it. I think if you cross that line, players know if you have, and whether Billy did that, I'm not quite sure,'' Stone said.
''But the main thing I was happy with, Pato sorted it out there and I think he got a little bit back as well and stood up for himself, which he needs to do.
''They're both competing hard, it's a tough game, and there's two points on the line. I'm more than happy to leave it where it is.
''Pato's confident that he knows what Billy said, and I think he's shown a bit of class to leave it there.''
Stone initially dismissed the incident as ''a little bit of banter on the run''.
''It's just one of those things as a young player, I suppose, getting exposed to players who have been in a lot of those tough contests, you've got to be able to handle yourself and make sure that you show that you're not being intimidated,'' he said.
Paterson's condition restricted him to just 11 NRL games last season, as he struggled for form and fitness and spent part of the year playing for Lakes United in the Newcastle domestic competition.
In a remarkable return to health and happiness, he lost almost 15 kilograms during the off-season, no longer needs to take anti-depressant medication, stood out in the Indigenous All Stars' pre-season victory over the NRL All Stars, and was one of Newcastle's best players in their first-round 20-16 victory over the Bulldogs nine days ago.
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