Knights players who bring the club into disrepute could face fines of up to 25 percent of their salary, suspensions or have their contracts terminated in a hard-line stance against poor off-field behaviour.
And club CEO Phil Gardner says no player, no matter how senior or important to the Knights on-field performance, will be exempt from the tough new sanctions that are now in place.
They come in the wake of young prop Jacob Saifiti being forced to front the club’s football committee a week before Christmas after being knocked out outside a Hamilton hotel, breaking his leg, in early December.
Gardner revealed Saifiti was fined a whopping $50,000 following the incident or 25 percent of his salary for this season but he will only hand over $25,000 with the club suspending half the fine.
“We think the penalty warrants the behaviour we are trying to put a stop to,” Gardner told the Newcastle Herald.
“Every case will be treated on it’s merits and obviously, all the facts need to be looked at in any incident but the fine of 25 percent on the contract will be across the board for everyone.
“Depending on what the incidents are, to go above that, you are looking at suspensions or terminations.”
Gardner is confident the small number of players who get themselves into trouble off the field will get the message.
“The game has had enough, not just us,” he said.
“We’ve had the CEO of the Tigers [Justin Pascoe] put out of the game for 12 months for entering into an ambassadorial agreement with an ex-player. So you look at where the standards are now set, they are very different.
“It’s difficult for the current players because they look back on the eras of past players and think why are we being treated differently.
“The answer to that is society has moved on. What we expect from people around behaviours, particularly behaviours towards women, has changed.
“What’s acceptable from an NRL player, given the size of the salaries and the training and everything else, has moved on.
”The punishment will be the same here for everyone and I think you will find a similar stance will be taken by the other clubs.”
Gardner claimed Saifiti had been “very emotional and very remorseful” at his disciplinary hearing.
“It was difficult for him but Jacob took the fine very well, he has accepted the punishment and he’s going to be working very hard to become a better footballer and a better person and we are going to help him do that,”Gardner said.
“We’ve needed to lift the standards and raise the bar higher with regards to poor behaviour.
“If you look at where the club has come from, we knew we needed to create a new culture for the town and we need to have a team that is respected.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of the majority of players that behave exemplary. We are talking about a very small band of players.
“But the penalties need to be strong enough to change behaviours. In the past they haven’t been and things have been swept under the carpet but we are creating a standard and players know where they sit. We are not just punishing them though, we are also helping them get better.”
“We’ve laid out what is acceptable and what isn’t and what the punishments will be and that’s the true test of character, not just of the playing group but also of the club.
“We’ve got to be strong enough to make those calls and we will be. If players think they don’t want to be involved in a club with those standards, they can tell us they want to go.”