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The NRL said it would take whatever action is necessary to protect the players and staff of the Newcastle Knights whose wages had not been paid today.

The NRL learned today that Newcastle Knights, controlled by Nathan Tinkler's business group, had failed to pay the salaries of at least 20 staff and players.

"The NRL will take whatever action is necessary to protect the Knights, the game and, most importantly, the players and staff as a result of these actions," NRL CEO, Mr Dave Smith, said.

NRL Head of Club Services, Mr Tony Crawford, said:  "The actions of the Tinkler-controlled Knights towards players and staff are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

"The NRL has demanded that the situation is rectified immediately because there is no place in our game for this kind of behaviour.

"The NRL will be assessing all options to bring this to a resolution in the interests of the Knights, staff, our fans and the broader Rugby League community."

The NRL said it would not speculate on what those options might include.