The Newcastle Knights have sacked new recruit Russell Packer after the NRL player was sentenced to two years’ jail for a drunken assault.
The club issued a statement on Monday saying Packer had been formally advised his contract had been terminated, effective immediately.
The former Warriors prop had only recently moved to Newcastle ahead of the 2014 season on a three-year deal.
The 24-year-old is currently behind bars after being handed a two-year fixed jail term last Monday.
Packer had pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actually bodily harm over an incident in which he repeatedly punched a man and stomped on his head in Sydney’s Martin Place last November.
His legal team are due to appeal the sentence at a hearing on February 11.
“There was never any doubt we would terminate Russell’s employment following Monday’s sentence however we had a process,” Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said on Monday.
“As we stated from the beginning and when we stood Russell down, first and foremost it was a legal process.
“At our first opportunity to meet with Russell, we advised him in person of our decision.”
The NRL last month refused to register Packer’s contract with the Knights after the league’s Integrity Unit investigated the incident.
The club said it would “continue its duty of care to ensure the welfare of Russell’s partner and two young children, who relocated to Newcastle last month.”
Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett said it was a difficult time for all parties involved.
“As a club, we knew this was a no-win situation and we accepted that,” said Bennett.
“We had a responsibility to handle this situation in a manner mindful of his young family, the club, its sponsors, members and the community as a whole.
“Until Sunday, no person including family members, had been allowed access to Russell.
“To reiterate, Russell acted independently on the night of the incident and was stood down as soon as the facts were established.
“We are all extremely disappointed and have never condoned Russell’s actions, however he still had a right to be informed of our decision first.
“Sponsors, corporate partners, members and fans who have supported the administration throughout this process knew we were doing what was right, despite criticism.”
The news of Packer’s sacking came on the back of an online campaign launched by the best friend of a “coward-punch” victim calling on the Knights to tear up the 112kg forward’s contract and make a stand against alcohol-fuelled violence.
The petition had garnered more than 10,000 signatures by Monday morning.
It caps off a horror week for the Knights, with the club’s community and charity support manager and former playmaker Ben Rogers facing two assault charges.
Meanwhile, second-rower Zane Tetevano was issued with an Apprehended Violence Order after an incident that allegedly left his girlfriend with bruises to her arm, chest and back.