US Rugby League club sacks player for backing Hayne over sex assault

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Sydney (AFP)

Former Australian Test player Tony 'T-Rex' Williams was sacked by his American club Friday after coming to the defence of fellow rugby league star and former San Francisco 49er Jarryd Hayne, who was jailed for sexual assault.

Williams was one of the highest-profile signings for a new professional rugby league competition involving teams across North America, which is due to start next month.

But New York Freedom tore up his contract after he lashed out when Hayne was jailed on Thursday to five years and nine months over the sexual assault of a woman at her home in 2018.

"In light of comments made by Tony Williams regarding the sentencing of Jarryd Hayne, New York Freedom can confirm that the contract between Tony and the club has been terminated," the club said in a statement on Twitter.

"New York Freedom condemns Tony's comments, and his opinions are not the opinions of New York Freedom or any party involved with the club.

"New York Freedom understands the hurt caused by these comments and takes the issue very seriously," it added.

Williams, who represented Australia and Tonga at international level and played three State of Origins for New South Wales, attacked the verdict in an Instagram story.

Hayne -- the National Rugby League player of the year in 2009 and 2014 -- was found guilty on two counts of intercourse without consent.

Best known outside Australia for a short-lived attempt to break into America's NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, he must serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible for parole. Broadcaster ABC Friday said he had lodged an appeal.

The North American Rugby League, which will comprise 12 teams from the United States and two from Canada, and is due to kick off on June 19-20.