Manly and Australia have suffered a stunning blow with forward Tony Williams facing up to 10 weeks on the sidelines after he was charged with a grade 4 dangerous throw by the NRL match review committee on Tuesday.
Williams was put on report in the 9th minute of Manly’s 17-14 loss to Cronulla at Toyota Stadium for his tackle on Sharks hooker Isaac De Gois.
If the Sea Eagles enter an early guilty plea, Williams will miss seven weeks, meaning he will be ruled out of Australia’s Test match against New Zealand on April 20 at Eden Park. It will also mean Williams won’t be available for the Sea Eagles until their Round 11 clash with the Roosters at Brookvale Oval.
NSW would be able to select the 23-year-old in the opening State of Origin game at Etihad Stadium on May 23 if he takes the early plea, however he won’t have played a game leading into the clash, which will leave the Blues' selectors with a difficult decision.
The grade 4 dangerous throw charge carries a base penalty of 725 points, but Williams has two prior non-similar offences which have added a 40% loading on the dangerous throw charge.
Williams was charged in the 2011 Preliminary Final against the Broncos with a grade 2 careless high tackle on Bronco Jharal Yow Yeh and then received a one-match ban during the Four Nations tournament in England for a high tackle on England’s Ben Westwood.
If Williams and the Sea Eagles fight the charge or the grading at the NRL judiciary and lose, Williams could face 10 weeks on the sidelines, ruling him out of the opening State of Origin contest.
If the Sea Eagles are successful in downgrading the charge to a grade 3 dangerous throw, Williams would still miss five matches, meaning he would be available for Manly’s Round 9 clash against the Raiders.
It is a major blow to the Northern Beaches club, who will take on St George Illawarra on Saturday night. It is still unknown when Manly’s star pair, Glenn Stewart (finger) and centre Steve Matai (hand), will be right to return.
The Sea Eagles will have until 12pm on Wednesday to respond to the charge.