NEWCASTLE Thunder forward Alex Foster has been banned for eight games for "assault" during their 53-10 win over Bradford Bulls earlier this month.

The RFL had charged him with assaulting a match official, with the former Castleford man pushing referee Michael Smaill out of the way as he attempted to stop a Bulls try.

Foster admitted the offence but challenged the F grading, which is the harshest available grade.

But the RFL found him guilty at Grade F, hence the lengthy ban.

As a result, Foster is set to have to sit out the rest of the season, unless Newcastle can somehow make up their current 11-point gap to the play-off places.

Newcastle director of rugby Denis Betts said: “Having viewed the footage from the game, Alex made the appropriate guilty plea of having made inappropriate contact with a match official.

“We felt having watched both the full speed footage and the slow-motion replays, that there was a realistic case to be made for a reduction in the grading, however the tribunal disagreed.

“We also challenged the wording of the charge as while there was inappropriate contact with a match official, we felt the term ‘physical assault’ was excessive.

“It is an unfortunate way for Alex to have his playing season ended, but that is where we find ourselves.”

Newcastle may be in the bottom half, but they are not struggling as much as Whitehaven, who sit-rock bottom of the Championship with just two points and look set for a swift return to the Championship.

There is growing discontent at the club, so much so that the club have released an official statement, admitting that their finances have taken a hit.

It reads: "There have, quite rightly, been questions from supporters in relation to the current position and intentions of the club for this season and into the future.

"It’s been a very difficult season on the pitch, which has disappointed us all.

"The Town board wanted to issue an update, which will be the first of a number of statements to be released over the coming weeks to ensure all of our stakeholders are kept up to date.

"Over recent weeks there has been a lot of work undertaken at the club to reconcile our financial position in line with near, and longer term, aspirations.

"The results on the pitch have, as will be understood, had an impact off the pitch.

"Due to the club's position in light of recruitment decisions coming into the 2022 season, declining attendances adversely affecting match day revenue and overall cost increases, immediate work on the cost base has been carried out to ensure the financial health of the club.

"In order to avoid future difficulties - and to drive towards the fantastic new stadium build and sustainable business model - more action needs to be taken over the coming weeks

"Further information will be released over that time but we want to assure the fan base, and everyone involved in the club, that the board are committed to doing everything possible, however difficult, to ensure the long-term security of our fantastic club.

"We appreciate your patience and continued support."