A young rugby league player sacked by the Newcastle Knights after a drunken escapade in Bathurst says the club failed to support him and the punishment doesn't fit the crime.
Dane Tilse was one of a dozen players fined after the rampage through a student dormitory at Charles Sturt University, but the only one sacked by the club.
The incident took on more serious overtones today as police set up a Strike Force to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by a Knights player after a 19-year-old woman made a formal complaint that she was indecently assaulted.
Police said the woman was considering how far she wanted to take the matter, but Newcastle chairman Michael Hill said the club believed no charges would be laid and the punishments were to do with breaking a team curfew and player misbehaviour.
Meanwhile Tilse, his father Michael and his manager Todd Buckingham lashed out at the Knights as the trio began piecing together the 20-year-old's future.
Tilse had his contract with the Knights terminated last night for conduct "contrary and prejudicial to the club and the NRL" while 12 players were fined a total of $50,000.
The club was also slapped with a $100,000 fine by the NRL with a further $100,000 fine suspended on the proviso there is no repeat incident in the next two years.
Tilse issued an apology today for his part in the Bathurst scandal and choked back tears as he spoke about the events of the past 24 hours.
"I feel devastated that I have had a dream for long time - being a professional footballer and it's been taken away from me through a lot of fault of my own," Tilse told League Correspondent.
"I feel it's disappointing that maybe the club hasn't supported me a bit more.
"If you asked me the punishment doesn't really fit the crime. I think there could be a lot of outside circumstances. People wanted heads and I was, not the scapegoat, I was made an example of.
"I have always loved playing for the Knights. I have been around here for four years now, I have had a great time and it's a bit upsetting."
Buckingham, who suggested Tilse would consider playing rugby union while banned from rugby league, questioned the speed with which the club elected to terminate Tilse's contract.
He claimed his client was given less than an hour to prepare a case.
Tilse, who the NRL confirmed faced a worldwide rugby league suspension, is still seeking legal advice.
"We were surprised at how fast they took action," Buckingham said.
"We didn't get time to get a case formed.
"We don't know where he stands. We're seeking legal advice to give us a guide on that."
However, Newcastle chief executive Ken Conway defended the club's handling of the incident.
"We acted upon admissions that were made by the player and those admissions weren't recanted at any stage by the player," Conway said.
"We believe we have followed due process and he has been afforded appropriate natural justice."
A police investigation is the end result of another horror weekend for rugby league.
For the second year in a row NSW police have set up a strike force to investigate allegations involving a rugby league player after last year's Bulldogs sex scandal at Coffs Harbour.
NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Dave Madden today confirmed a woman had made a complaint.
"She has provided a formal statement but she is considering her position in terms of future proceedings," Madden said.
"Despite that, we are continuing with an investigation.
"I'm not prepared to indicate what her allegation is, nor am I prepared to identify any person, player or otherwise, who may be the actual alleged offender in this incident."
The club also revealed it was considering an alcohol ban for away games as it emerged the Knights faced the prospect of losing a major sponsor.
Conway said he had been issued a "show cause notice" by one of the club's potential major sponsors in the wake of the incident.
"It certainly hasn't helped that the deal wasn't signed-off," Conway said today.
"I guess we have been served with what I would call a show cause notice."
Conway also revealed the players had raised the prospect of an alcohol ban on away trips.
NRL chief executive David Gallop said he had spoken to several of the game's major sponsors and they had supported the league's swift response to the incident.
"Naturally sponsors are going to be concerned but the response to our action has been very positive," he said.Like