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Dec 18, 2012

HSG debt no hassle for A-League gun Heskey

The Hunter Sports Group (HSG) wheeled out the big guns to appease Knights stakeholders on Monday night, but for those involved with Newcastle's A-League franchise the wait continues.

Wayne Bennett, one of the biggest names in the NRL, successfully implored members to stay the journey with embattled owner Nathan Tinkler.

Given the $20 million bank guarantee written into Tinkler's takeover, the NRL can breathe relatively easy about their problem child.

It also helps the coal baron is enamoured with rugby league.

In contrast, Tinkler butted heads with Football Federation Australia (FFA) in April and declared he was ready to hand back the Jets A-League licence.

Newcastle marquee striker Emile Heskey, who signed a one-season deal, will start negotiations with the club in January.

HSG insists a tax bill of virtually $3.2 million will be paid long before then, but failure to do so could potentially be a sticking point in those talks.

The English star insisted on Tuesday he's giving it little thought.

"Not really. From January we'll sit down and discuss it, I doubt that will have any impact on anything," Heskey said ahead of a crunch clash with Sydney FC.

"I'm sure that off-field stuff will sort itself out over a period of time, but there's nothing that we can actually do about it.

"I'm enjoying the town and enjoying everything about it."

The Australian Taxation Office's move to liquidate the Jets last week created unwanted UK headlines for a league attempting to enrich its status overseas.

Aside from the embarrassment of having Heskey go homeless, the FFA's recent TV deal featured five matches a week and that's a promise essentially dependant on a 10-team competition.

FFA chief executive David Gallop recently dismissed rumours that HSG was considering sacrificing the Jets to save the Knights.

Jets chief executive Robbie Middleby is also upbeat the saga will be over soon, but the former North Queensland operations manager was equally buoyant prior to FFA's axe falling on the Fury.

Panni Nikas, a former National Youth League player of the year who was one of many left in the lurch by the Fury's jarring exit, felt for the Jets players soaking up the speculation.

"I've got no idea what's happening up there (in Newcastle) with Tinkler, but when it was up in the air at the Fury you never really understood how we'd be affected.

"You were never too sure ... every time you came in and asked for an update. They were telling us one thing and another thing was happening.

"I think the FFA should do everything in its power to keep them (Newcastle) in if they have to, but hopefully it won't come to that."

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