THE NRL slapped Newcastle with a $5000 fine yesterday after Richie Fa'aoso wore an illegal abrasive pad on his forearm last weekend which left Bulldogs players looking like they had "lost a battle with a bunch of ferocious cats".
Knights operations manager Warren Smiles said some Newcastle players had worn the unauthorised grip pads, pictured right, on their arm strapping for several years, and believed players from other NRL clubs had done likewise, to assist with "one-armed carries" of the ball.
Smiles said the Knights accepted the fine after prop Fa'aoso inflicted scratches to several Bulldogs players in Newcastle's 26-12 loss at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
A senior Bulldogs official described the injuries as worse than the usual stud marks and scratches prevalent after a tough game and "some of our boys looked like they'd lost a battle with a bunch of ferocious cats".
But Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg said they were satisfied with the action taken by the NRL.
The NRL decided the pads breached rules regarding dangerous playing equipment and warned all clubs not to use them. Referees have been told to closely monitor players' strapping for the rest of the finals.
Acting on complaints from Bulldogs players, touch judge Steve Carrall asked at half-time on Saturday for Fa'aoso to remove the pads and Smiles said the Knights complied.
"We'll pay the breach notice. We obviously contravened the rules because it wasn't approved before the game," Smiles said.
"They've been worn by players for several seasons, as far as I'm aware . . . but on this occasion it has obviously caused some damage."
Asked if players from other NRL clubs wore them, Smiles said: "As far as I know they do. They help with one-armed carries."
Smiles said it was the club's responsibility to be aware of the contents of the operations manual but players had never worn the pads to intentionally injure an opponent.
"They've been worn all year and no one else has complained but on this occasion it has caused an injury, and we certainly weren't intending to do that," he said.
"We admit that we weren't in compliance with the rules."
Meanwhile, Fa'aoso has escaped suspension but fellow forwards Steve Simpson and Matt Hilder will miss Newcastle's two pre-season trials next year after they all pleaded guilty to charges arising from the Bulldogs game.
Fa'aoso will carry 56 demerit points, Hilder 93 and Simpson 28 into next season but will lose five points each game they play. Every 100 points equals a one-game ban.
Hilder (grade two) and Simpson (grade one) were charged with dangerous-throw tackles, and Fa'aoso was charged with a grade-one careless high tackle.
In other news, Knights forwards Isaac De Gois and Zeb Taia could undergo reconstructive surgery by the end of this week to give them every opportunity to be fit for the start of next season.
De Gois (knee) lasted less than two minutes of Newcastle's 26-12 loss to the Bulldogs in last Saturday's qualifying final and Taia (shoulder) was a passenger after 10 minutes and was replaced for good four minutes into the second half.
Knights surgical consultant Neil Halpin saw Taia yesterday and will see De Gois tomorrow and hopes to schedule their procedures as soon as possible. Dr Halpin said "about six months" was the average recovery time for both operations.
Jarrod Mullen and Cooper Vuna both need arthroscopic surgery to determine the extent of damage to shoulder injuries they have carried for much of the season. Dr Halpin expects to check them and most other players tomorrow and Friday.