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Lodge not guilty at judiciary and free to play

Warriors prop Matt Lodge is free to play in Sunday's last-round clash with the Titans after escaping a fourth suspension this year.

Following the lead of Panthers coach Ivan Cleary, Warriors assistant Justin Morgan represented Lodge.

The 26-year-old risked a two-match ban by challenging a grade-one dangerous contact charge for a hip drop-style tackle on Canberra's Joe Tapine.

Lodge has already missed three games (rounds 20, 22 and 23) since joining the Warriors in July after contrary conduct and high tackle offences.

The former Bronco was also sidelined in round 12 due to a high tackle charge.

Morgan told the panel of Sean Garlick, Tony Puletua and Dallas Johnson that Lodge was "sandwiched" in an awkward position.

"Being the defensive coach, I thought it was best to sit here with Matt … and let you know where we think the tackle went wrong," Morgan said.

NRL prosecutor Peter McGrath argued Lodge used his two-hand grip on Tapine to "carelessly" swing his bodyweight onto his opponent's leg.

Match Highlights: Warriors v Raiders

However, Morgan countered that Wayde Egan's "twisting" motion around the ball contributed to Lodge's positioning.

"Joe Tapine beats Matthew and he's holding on for dear life," Morgan said.

"We certainly don't think that Tapine's momentum was stopped because of [Lodge's] contact.

"The contact was stopped because he was twisted.

"If it was [Lodge's] grip that brought him down, he would have brought him down five or six steps earlier.

"There's no way a player can bring down a player of Joe Tapine's athletic ability with his hands.

"The twisting motion at some point of the tackle has sandwiched him underneath.

"If Wayde Egan is not involved in the tackle at all, what happens is Joe Tapine finds his front and Matthew Lodge finds himself in the play-the-ball area."

But in McGrath's view, the other defenders did not contribute to Lodge landing on Tapine's limb.

"It was a case of player Tapine – I think, in this instance – getting the better of the defence … and player Lodge doing what he could to stop him," he said.

McGrath claimed there was an "unacceptable risk of injury".

"[Lodge] comes down with contact on player Tapine's ankle and that causes that knee to buckle under the weight of player Lodge," he said.

Tapine was unable to play the ball with a minor knee issue but returned to the field to help the Raiders to a 28-16 win.

Normally, the charge would result in a fine – after a 25 percent discount afforded for a guilty plea – but four non-similar offences in the past two years added loading.

The enforcer would have been rubbed out for round one of next season if the verdict went against him.

While a finals miracle isn't possible for the Warriors, they are keen to strongly finish off another nomadic season with a win over the Titans on Sunday.

In five matches under coach Nathan Brown, Lodge has averaged 135 metres and formed a formidable front-row partnership with Addin Fonua-Blake.

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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