Knights CEO Philip Gardner has described Jarrod Mullen's fall from grace, which reached its lowest point in December when the former NSW halfback overdosed on drugs, as a tragedy.
Gardner spoke in Newcastle on Tuesday in response to reports detailing Mullen's downfall and connection to an ongoing police investigation into the supply of illicit drugs.
Highlighting his family connection to the 31-year-old former Knights hero, an emotional Gardner clarified some of the details in reports in both the Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald.
Gardner stressed Mullen overdosed at home, and not at a party.
Gardner dismissed suggestions any current Knights players attended the same party.
"Jarrod Mullen's situation is a tragedy. It's a tragedy for Jarrod, it's a tragedy for his family, and it's a tragedy for the club," Gardner told reporters.
"This tragedy probably has a few more acts to play out before it's finished, and there's a range of things that have been said in relationship to a particular person's birthday party, and Knights players being at that party.
"To the best of my knowledge, none of our top 36 [players] were at any of those parties. I think the reports aren't accurate – I don't know why they've been reported – but it certainly doesn't represent the facts.
Knights CEO addresses 'tragic' Mullen situation
"They've also got the issue with Jarrod wrong. Jarrod did overdose. He did not overdose at the party. He was found at home by his family.
"I can only say to you again, what a tragedy for the family. Anybody that's a parent that finds themselves in this situation would understand how difficult this is for everyone.
"This keeps getting played out again and again and again, and it's just wrong."
Mullen was 18 when he made his NRL debut for Newcastle in 2005 – the first of 211 games for the club – and made his only State of Origin appearance for NSW two years later as a 20-year-old.
Gardner said Knights management and welfare staff would use Mullen's case as a cautionary tale to current and future Newcastle players.
"It's a terrible tragedy, what we're seeing here with Jarrod. We're going to do our best, and we're also going to use it as an example of what not to do for our players so they understand," Gardner said.
"Jarrod's journey from the absolute pinnacle of our game to where it is today brings a tear to my eye. This young man was a Wests junior, I've known him since he was a child, I've known his family for many years [and] he's a distant cousin of mine.
"No-one understands the tragedy better than I, and we don't want to ever see this happen again to anybody."
Jarrod's journey from the absolute pinnacle of our game to where it is today brings a tear to my eyeKnights CEO Phillip Gardner
The NRL imposed a four-year ban on Mullen in May 2017 after the league’s anti-doping body found him guilty of taking the banned steroid drostanolone. The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority had recommended the four-year suspension but Mullen appealed to the NRL’s anti-doping tribunal.
Mullen admitted using the steroid to expedite the healing and recovery process after sustaining a significant hamstring tear during Knights pre-season training in December 2016.
"We as a club will do everything we can to assist Jarrod and his family but we must understand that he’s been barred from contacting the game for the next four years," Gardner said.