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Sack for Seymour and Costigan

Published: 5:02PM Thursday August 10, 2006 Source: AAP

Brisbane players Brett Seymour and Neville Costigan have had their NRL contracts torn up in a stern warning to teammates to toe the line or else.

Rugby union and AFL have fined players for alcohol-related offences this month but the Broncos took unprecedented action to deliver a clear message to players they will not tolerate behaviour harmful to the club's reputation.

"It's three strikes and you're out," warned disappointed Brisbane chief executive Bruno Cullen, showing no sympathy for the dumped duo.

The Broncos' decision drew support from NRL chief executive David Gallop, but players' association boss Matt Rodwell questioned the severity of the punishment.

Coach Wayne Bennett ordered both 21 year-olds - involved in separate alcohol-related incidents in Brisbane this month - be dumped immediately.

The first players to be sacked during the season in Brisbane's 19-year history, they had contracts with the five-time premiers until the end of 2007.

In 1995, the Broncos sacked Julian O'Neill for repeated breaches, but that action came in November, after the season.

Seymour, who's played more than 60 first grade games, was interviewed by police last week following a complaint he allegedly head-butted a woman on the dance floor of Brisbane's Regatta Hotel.

Costigan, closing on 50 first grade games, was fined $5,000 this week after being charged with drink-driving on Monday night after Brisbane tumbled to its fourth straight loss at the weekend.

It was expected Costigan, who failed to notify the club of his offence until Wednesday, would be stood down for this weekend's big game against Melbourne.

But Bennett, a strict disciplinarian, told Cullen to show them both the door.

Cullen said Bennett's decision was not a knee-jerk reaction, revealing both players had been guilty of several previous indiscretions after signing player code of conduct agreements.

"This is a very sad day for this great club and the decision we have made was not taken lightly," said Cullen.

"We got to the point where we woke up to ourselves that with these two particular cases we were making no headway at all.

"These two guys are getting into the serial offenders category.

"They were just bringing the game and the club and everything else around this joint into disrepute."

Cullen refused to reveal details of the players' previous indiscretions before today's decision to show them the door.

"They're private between the player and the club," he said.

"Needless to say there've been a number for each of them and we felt it was time we took some action."

The players' managers were notified as soon as Bennett, who was in Warwick on Wednesday when the Costigan drama broke, decided they were no longer wanted.

Cullen conceded the off-field behaviour of the players may have impacted on the team's on-field performance in recent weeks.

"We're not playing too well at the moment. You'd have to wonder what someone who's putting in for 80 minutes is thinking about how much help his mate, who'd been out late drinking too much, was helping him," said Cullen.

"It's disappointing because less than two weeks ago we had an external party up from Sydney talking to the boys about responsible drinking and the handling of alcohol.

"We've got about 117 players tied up on contracts and scholarships coming through the system at the Clydesdales and here and we've got a few offenders.

"I'm not naive enough to think whether I have 100 players or 30 players that the whole lot of them are going to be angels.

"We're not trying to be the benchmarks or the heroes, we just want to make sure that the message gets across to our guys.

"The penny will drop one day, I hope".

Cullen denied any external pressure from some of the club's sponsors, especially Queensland Transport which had grounds to pull its $1 million state-government backing given Costigan's drink-driving breach.

"We've got a number of sponsorships we service which we take very seriously," he said.

"I wouldn't like this to be taken the wrong way but for $300,000 a year for three years having an iconic brand of the Broncos and the high-profile players we provide to deliver their message is a pretty good deal."

Neither player could be contacted for comment.

Gallop said the NRL would wait until after the police investigation surrounding Seymour was completed before deciding whether to take further action against the player.

He said it was unlikely the NRL would de-register a player like Costigan for drink driving, but would still await a full report from the Broncos over the incidents.

Rodwell said Costigan's penalty could be considered harsh if it solely related to his drink-driving charge, while expressing concern over Seymour's dumping over an incident for which he is yet to be charged.