Knights ready to wield the axe

Newcastle's Kiwi contingent are facing the axe as the winless National Rugby League cellar dwellers look ahead to 2006.

Prop Craig Smith and centre George Carmont are unlikely to figure in the Knights' plans next year as the struggling club consider a clean out of their first grade squad.

It is understood former Kiwis prop Smith, who was coaxed out of semi-retirement to shore up an injury-ravaged squad at the start of the season, will not be offered a new contract.

Former chicken factory worker Carmont has a year to run on his contract but has been given permission to negotiate with rival clubs after the June 30 anti-tampering deadline lapses.

"They told me (to look elsewhere) but it is sort of a mutual thing because my form hasn't been what it was last year," said Carmont, who has played in 12 of the Knights' 13 games, scoring six tries.

"My confidence has been down and mentally it has been pretty tough.

"The option for next year is in my favour but I am going to have a look around to see if there is some interest out there."

Up to 10 first grade players may be cut as the club overhauls its football operations.