MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Billy Slater and head coach Craig Bellamy are seen during the team photoshoot during a Melbourne Storm NRL media opportunity at AAMI Park on September 24, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. Slater will soon head up to Sydney to face the NRL tribunal to fight his suspension in order to play in the NRL grand final. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Billy Slater and head coach Craig Bellamy are seen during the team photoshoot during a Melbourne Storm NRL media opportunity at AAMI Park on September 24, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. Slater will soon head up to Sydney to face the NRL tribunal to fight his suspension in order to play in the NRL grand final. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

‘Makes me sick’: Gus erupts over Slater

NRL guru Phil Gould and Sharks captain Paul Gallen have butted heads during a heated discussion around Billy Slater's shoulder charge judiciary hearing tonight.

The Storm fullback is contesting a grade one charge for his rattling hit on Sharks winger Sosaia Feki which threatens to overshadow Sunday's NRL grand final and kill-off the champion No. 1's career.

The tackle and the NRL Match Review Committee's (MRC) proposed punishment have left the game divided.

None more so than Gould and Gallen on Monday night where the two outspoken commentators showcased the game's dilemma on Channel 9's 100% Footy.

In a thinly veiled swipe at the NRL and the MRC's charge, Gould opened the show by declaring the NRL's failure to support and promote its champion players makes him feel "sick".

"No game rubs its champions out more than the NRL. It makes me sick," he said.

"We think it's about everything but the players. The players are the ones who will bring people through the gate and we've got to let them play."

The Panthers football boss said Slater's tackle on Feki was a textbook example of how coaches want their fullbacks to defend their try-line in covering defence.

"The shoulder charge rule was never to outlaw that tackle,'' Gould said.

"We said to them (the NRL) at the time (the rule was introduced), 'What about the fullback coming across, cover defence, into the corner, last ditch effort and bundling him into touch?'

"I've seen that half a dozen times and no one has been charged, not even penalised, in fact I've probably seen it two dozen times over the past couple of years where a fullback or centre has taken out a winger close to the try-line and nothing has happened.

"For me it was dealt with on the field. The referee penalised them. That's it. That's where it should have ended. Cronulla got their advantage.''

 

There’s a hand in there.
There’s a hand in there.

However, Gallen hit back by declaring Slater has "got to miss a game" - and added that Cronulla was disadvantaged by incorrect officiating by the referees on Friday night where the whistle-blowers failed to send Slater to the sin bin or award a penalty try.

"We didn't get an advantage," Gallen said.

"I think had it been dealt with better on the field, we wouldn't be in this mess.

"My initial reaction was penalty try, it's a deliberate shoulder charge in the act of scoring.

"Now he wasn't scoring a try because he wasn't putting the ball down, then I've come back and thought, 'He's got to get 10 in the bin', it's a professional foul in a try-scoring situation.

"If he gets 10 in the sin-bin there that's Cronulla's advantage. We get no advantage now. That's a shoulder charge.

"You know what a great tackle would have been there? A right shoulder tackle.

"That's a perfect opportunity for a right shoulder tackle…you put your head behind and right shoulder tackle - it would have made the highlights reel.

"The rules state you have to wrap your arm, he didn't attempt to wrap his arm.

"I feel sorry for him that he's been charged, but I think if they're going to be serious and they're going to stick to the rules the way they are written he's got to miss a game."

 

Hello darkness my old friend.
Hello darkness my old friend.

Gallen's complaint about the on-field officiating of the tackle comes after a revelation on Fox League's NRL 360 on Monday night that the NRL has conceded Slater should have been sent to the bin.

The Daily Telegraph's Phil Rothfield told Fox League the NRL has privately conceded the referees should have instantly sent Slater off for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, NRL 360 host Paul Kent has said "Slater can get away with it" at the judiciary tonight because of undeniable doubt around Slater's right hand wrapping around Feki's body.

He said the Storm will show footage of Slater's right hand first making contact with Feki's arm before his shoulder makes contact with the winger's torso.

Under NRL rules a player can be charged if the contact is forceful and the player did not use, or attempt to use, his arms (including his hands) to tackle.

Kent said the doubt around Slater's right hand could be enough for Slater to be cleared.

"When you can marry that doubt and that feeling of sympathy toward Billy of ex-players who know how big it is to miss a grand final and your last ever game. When you roll that into the changed clause that says if a player did not use or attempt to use his hands, you can say he did, he did attempt to use them.

"With a sympathetic jury Slater can get away with it."

Sydney lawyer Geoff Bellew, who unsuccessfully attempted to free Cameron Smith to play in Melbourne's run to the 2008 NRL grand final, will oversee Slater's hearing.

In a strange twist of fate, Bellew - who has since become a NSW Supreme Court Judge - is now at the end of his fourth season as the NRL's judiciary chairman.

- with AAP



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