Raiders rookie Hudson Young has copped an eight-game ban for eye-gouging despite both he and Adam Pompey categorically denying he made any contact with the Warrior's eyes.
Young looked a shattered man after an exhausting two-and-a-half hours at the judiciary that results in him being rubbed out of Canberra's finals campaign and at least the first month of their 2020 season.
Young's previous eye-gouging incident – which earned him five games on the sidelines for his contact to Aiden Tolman's eyes three months ago – added to the length of his latest punishment, while NRL counsel had originally pushed for a 10-12-week suspension.
Pompey appeared via video link from Auckland to provide evidence, while Young cut a defiant, but disconsolate figure throughout the initial 100-minute hearing, before then returning to hear his sentence.
"I just want to thank the panel for a fair hearing. Although I'm disappointed with their decision, I'll accept my punishment and learn from it," Young said in a brief statement afterwards.
"I'd like to thank Adam and (his lawyer) Nick [Ghabar] for speaking on my behalf tonight. It's much appreciated.
"I'll now focus on returning to training this week and doing everything I can for the team."
Hudson Young charged for eye gouge
Under intense cross-examination from NRL counsel Peter McGrath, Young repeatedly stressed "at no point did I feel his eye socket".
In trying to hold Pompey up as he looked to score a try, Young said he unintentionally made contact with the rookie winger's face after his grip slipped off Pompey's hand in the tackle.
“I was just trying to grab anything. I felt his face and slipped off his face," Young said, arguing that his own eyes were on the ground as his head was turned to brace for contact.
“You can see I just grabbed his hand there, just to try and pull up (and halt Pompey’s momentum towards grounding the ball). I just grabbed a hold.
"I lose grip on his hand ... when I felt contact with his face (on a second effort) I pulled my hand away as fast as I could."
Pompey also denied any gouging by Young, responding with "no" to repeated questioning about feeling any contact, pressure or pain to his eyes.
"I didn't feel anything at all," Pompey said.
But the youngster appeared to undermine his testimony by saying "yes", when asked by McGrath whether he believed 'what happens on the field should stay on the field?'
NRL judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew in turn told the three-man panel of Mal Cochrane, Dallas Johnson and Tony Puletua to consider whether Pompey’s evidence is “influenced by a sense of loyalty to another professional footballer”.
Ghabar also pointed to Pompey's lack of reaction to the incident immediately afterwards as a mitigating factor.
Young also said strapping on the middle and index fingers of his right hand meant "my fingers are stuck together … you can't fully straighten them", preventing him from any reefing action on Pompey's face.
In pushing for Young's lengthy suspension, McGrath highlight the need for personal deterrence given the Tolman incident occurred only in June.
The ban handed to Young falls just short of the nine-game suspension handed to Rabbitohs forward George Burgess for his contact on now-retired Tigers hooker Robbie Farah in round 15.
Young's contact on Pompey was deemed to be less forceful that Burgess's, but the Englishman's guilty plea entitled him to a 25% reduction that Young did not receive.
With Young's hearing not finishing until just after 10pm on Tuesday night, NRL.com understands that the club had asked the Roosters whether his case could be heard before that of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves so Young could make a late flight back to the nation's capital.
The Roosters knocked back the request to change the judiciary order – which is determined by when offences occur over the weekend – to put Waerea-Hargreaves own preparation for Friday's clash with South Sydney first.