Melbourne superstar Billy Slater is free to play in the 2018 Telstra Premiership grand final after being cleared of a grade-one shoulder charge at the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night.
The Australian Test fullback, who is retiring at the end of the season, fronted the judiciary on Tuesday night and pleaded the case that his tackle on Cronulla winger Sosaia Feki was a collision with first contact made with the pec, and that he attempted a genuine tackle while denying Feki a try in the corner.
The judiciary panel spent 55 minutes deliberating on a verdict after a marathon 110-minute hearing, with the decision eventually going Slater's way.
Slater's lawyer Nick Ghabar successfully argued that the first point of contact in Slater's tackle was with his pec, not his shoulder, and that Feki's angled run left Slater with no option but to make the try-saving tackle in the way he did.
Slater thanked the judiciary panel after the marathon session for giving him a fair hearing.
"I'd just like to thank the judiciary members for a fair hearing," Slater said.
"It was important for me tonight to get my point across, and what my intentions were in this incident.
"Now it's important for me to focus on the game. I haven't started my preparations for the game yet so that starts now.
"I'd also like to thank Nick (Ghabar), my lawyer, and the club, the Melbourne Storm. They've really helped me over the last four days to put this case together, so now it's time to think about the grand final."
During the hearing, Slater said there was no malice involved in the tackle.
"The whole time my intention was to make a tackle. It happens earlier than I expected to do but I'm still attempting to wrap my right arm. Even with my left arm is trying to wrap underneath. I was still trying to get my body in a position to get between the ball and the try line," he says.
"I've got a duty to make a tackle, the duty of care is to myself and player Feki. To ensure I don't make a high tackle is a duty to Feki. I feel the contact that was made was unavoidable once he veered back in. I think the decisions I made ensured the safest possible contact was made."
When he asked them to reach their verdict, judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew asked panel members to consider the following.
"1. Was there forceful contact with the shoulder or upper arm?" Bellew said if their answer was no, then he needed to be found not guilty.
"If you answer yes, you need to consider: 2. Was the forceful contact made without Slater using or attempting to use both his arms including his hands to tackle or otherwise take hold of the opposing player.
"3. Was Slater's conduct careless? I remind you he is charged with a careless act, not an intentional act."
|Minute of match||14th|
|Matches to serve||0|
|Misconduct on whom?||Sosaia Feki|
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