St George Illawarra have been forced to admit failings in club culture after Paul Vaughan was sacked on Tuesday for hosting an illegal party at his home with 12 other players at the weekend.
In an emergency meeting on Tuesday, the Dragons board decided to tear up the remaining 15 months of Vaughan's NRL deal which was worth around $750,000 per season.
Vaughan had already been fined $50,000 by the NRL and slapped with an eight-game ban for breaching COVID-19 protocols by hosting a party at his Shellharbour home.
Jack de Belin and other players have copped individual breach notices from the Dragons on top of the one-game suspensions and the $305,000 worth of fines handed out to the group.
All 13 players as well as Vaughan's partner were fined $1000 by NSW Police for breaching a health order.
It has since emerged that de Belin and a handful of others misled authorities, the club and the NRL's integrity unit to cover up that he had been in attendance.
De Belin told the club that he had been walking his dog in the general area of the party and just dropped something off at Vaughan's house.
It is Vaughan's second breach of the NRL's biosecurity rules after he attended a cafe while in the NRL bubble last season, and he was on his third warning for another unrelated incident.
The 12 other players in attendance at the party were fined by the club, with the confidential figure to be donated to local charities.
They will have to complete "compulsory extracurricular club service".
"I don't think we've got a culture problem but I don't think the culture is where we want it to be," Dragons chief executive Ryan Webb said.
"We need to honestly look at our culture and say we're not where we want to be and ask how are we going to improve it from here?"
It's understood Vaughan's eight-game NRL suspension will carry over to any subsequent NRL deal he signs.
Webb said the board deliberated at length about whether to sack the ex-NSW and Kangaroos prop but did not consider tearing up the contracts of senior players de Belin and Corey Norman.
Daniel Alvaro, Gerard Beale, Jack Bird, Matt Dufty, Kaide Ellis, Tyrell Fuimaono, Josh Kerr, Blake Lawrie, Zac Lomax and Josh McGuire were also in attendance.
"You're talking about a guy's career and he's got a family, so there was a fair discussion around the board and it wasn't an easy decision by any means," Webb said.
"Paul took the news as you'd expect, he took it quite hard and he was quite shocked by the news.
"We delivered it as quickly as we could, we didn't want to drag this out."
Coach Anthony Griffin has also expressed his disappointment in the players after their golden-point win on Friday night put the Dragons into seventh on the NRL ladder.
"It's terribly disappointing and I apologise to everyone, not just in the football world but in the whole community under lockdown at the moment," Griffin said.
"In the short term for our club we've dealt with it, we'll be stronger for it and we'll do whatever we can to improve the integrity and perception of the club going forward."