SENIOR players Tyson Frizell and Daniel Saifiti have defended the Newcastle Knights after the criticism they received for travelling overseas during bye week.
After their 43-12 loss to Parramatta on April 28, the Knights had a 16-day hiatus between fixtures before their next assignment, against Gold Coast at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
When the NRL draw was initially released, Knights coach Adam O'Brien and his high-performance staff identified the break as a chance for players to freshen up, and they were given a week off and permission to leave town.
One player, Bradman Best, travelled to Bali, Leo Thompson headed home to visit family in New Zealand, three others flew to Fiji and others are understood to have travelled interstate.
High-profile commentators including Phil Gould, Paul Kent and Billy Slater publicly queried whether travelling overseas was appropriate, although rival coaches Ricky Stuart and Trent Robinson were both quoted in the Daily Telegraph on Monday saying they encouraged their players to get away during bye week.
Frizell, a veteran of 225 NRL games, 14 Tests for Australia and 14 State of Origins for NSW, revealed on Monday that he had taken his young family to Tasmania.
"If people want to have a crack at me for being away with my family, it's up to them," he said.
"If people have decided to go to different places, see their family or have a holiday for a couple of days, it's something that's been put in place by the performance staff before the season has even started. I guess people don't understand that.
"We'll end up training through the next two byes, so there needs to be a period during the season where you get a few days off ... people can choose to do whatever they want with that time."
Frizell said "we're ready to rip in" before their training session on Monday, the first as a full squad since regrouping.
Saifiti spent most of last week in Newcastle undergoing physiotherapy on a shoulder injury he has been carrying for weeks, after having a cortisone injection the day after the loss to Parramatta.
He was disappointed with some of the commentary surrounding his teammates.
"I think they said our whole team went to Bali," Saifiti said.
"It was one bloke, Bradman. That's it. He's been here since November 2, training his butt off. That's his first break.
"A lot of the team stayed back and trained.
"The way it got portrayed in the media was the whole team went, but that wasn't the case ... that's their opinion. I don't really care."
One player who stayed in Newcastle to train was skipper Kalyn Ponga, who is looking to make amends after possibly the worst performance of his NRL career against Parramatta.
Frizell said regardless of whether Ponga stays at five-eighth or returns to the fullback role, "as long as he's out there on that field, we're a better side".
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