Newcastle Knights sack jailed Kiwi prop Packer

BEHIND BARS: Russell Packer is in the process of appealing his jail sentence.
BEHIND BARS: Russell Packer is in the process of appealing his jail sentence.

The Newcastle Knights have sacked New Zealand rugby league player Russell Packer after he was sentenced to two years' jail for a drunken assault.

The club issued a statement today saying Packer had been formally advised his contract had been terminated, effective immediately.

Last week a Sydney magistrate jailed the former Warriors prop for two years after he was found found guilty of assaulting a man in Sydney in November. Packer, who pleaded guilty, is appealing the sentence.

"There was never any doubt we would terminate Russell's employment following [last] Monday's sentence however we had a process," Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said.

"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."

According to the statement the Knights "will 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," Bennett said.

"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 NRL had earlier refused to register Packer's four-year contract with the Knights after the Integrity Unit investigated the incident. Packer had never represented the club.

Newcastle Knights fans have reacted positively to the termination.

"Well done Wayne and club," Nath White posted on the Knights Facebook page.

"We are the most professional unit in the game now. We get rid of weeds fast and without prejudice. Packer needs help and we should be a friend to him even if we can't give him a career anymore. A career he ruined. You can only do so much for someone before they have to man up and grow a backbone."

Brett Hooper felt Packer should have been sacked as soon as he was charged, while Mitch Donnelly questioned why the club continued to support his partner and their two children, who relocated to Newcastle last month.

"Why is it the Knights responsibility to look after his family?" he asked.

"If I did the same thing, my employer would not look after my family, nor should they be expected to. Packer is responsible for his family, not the club which he had never played for."

Leonie Newton said Packer's contract should be "burnt in front of him" while Jodie Legge said: "Good riddance to the violent grub. Our Knights do not need 'role models' like this is our sporting community."

Packer, who is financing his legal team, will be required to cover any payment his victim, 22-year-old Aucklander Enoka Time, receives via the New South Wales Victim Support Scheme.

New Zealanders resident in NSW are eligible for counselling, financial assistance for immediate needs, financial compensation for loss of income and a recognition payment which is based on the offence and trauma caused.

-AAP and Fairfax News NZ