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The NRL has fined Newcastle $5,000 for comments made by coach Michael Hagan supporting captain Andrew Johns over a claim he'd abused a match official.
Johns stands to be suspended through the first week of the finals after being given a grade three contrary conduct charge by the match review committee today for allegedly swearing at touch judge Matt Cechin in the 16-14 loss to Manly.
The NRL says the fine was issued on the basis that the coach of a team has publicly endorsed the principle that players are entitled to abuse referees. NRL chief executive David Gallop has indicated the fine would have been significantly higher if Hagan had not changed his tune since.
The $5000 fine Newcastle is facing over Hagan's comments is less than the $15,000 St George Illawarra coach Nathan Brown incurred last week for claiming his team was being unfairly treated by referees.
Meqanwhile, bookmakers believe Newcastle's NRL premiership hopes are all but gone Johns is suspended.
With the sixth-placed Knights having a bye in the final round, Johns' suspension would include clashes with the Cowboys and Panthers then spill into the first week of the finals. The bookies say history has shown the Knights struggle badly without Johns to lead them.
Centrebet has wound the sixth-placed Knights' premiership odds out from $11 to $17 and suspended top four betting. Sportingbet Australia temporarily shut down its premiership betting and says if JOHNS cops the suspension it wind Newcastle's odds out from $11 to $15 and tighten the quotes of both Manly and St George Illawarra from $11 into $9.