Guilty: How Mitchell's judiciary challenge fell over
The Roosters must win through to this year's grand final for Latrell Mitchell to take the field for them again after his preliminary final ban was upheld at the judiciary.
After a marathon 100-minute hearing at Rugby League Central on Tuesday night, Mitchell was still found guilty of a crusher tackle on Cronulla's Josh Dugan, rubbing him out of the Roosters grand final qualifier against either the Rabbitohs or Dragons next Saturday.
The three-man panel of ex-players Sean Garlick, Tony Puletua, Bob Lindner took 12 minutes to deliver their verdict, with the fact Mitchell's feet left the ground in tackling Dugan critical to the grade 1 dangerous contact with the head/neck charge standing.
In kicking out as he brought the Sharks centre to the ground, Mitchell's jumping motion added additional force to his own 100-kilo plus frame already bearing down on Dugan's neck.
Mitchell did not deny that he had "jumped" in making the tackle on Dugan, and conceded he "did not execute (the tackle) the way I wanted to".
"I don't want to hurt anyone, I don't go out to deliberately hurt someone, " Mitchell said when called to give evidence.
"I just tried to be dominant, get him to his back and use as much power as I could.
"I wouldn't say it was careless, I was trying to let him fall through (without applying additional pressure to Dugan's head or neck) but also finish my tackle.
"I tried to use my body weight to bring him down. There was no force onto his neck – I felt like I was in control... I felt like I was courteous of his neck."
Mitchell faced no extra time on the sidelines by challenging the charge and would have escaped the ban entirely were it not for carry-over points from a cannon ball tackle on Parramatta's Clint Gutherson a week earlier.
In establishing Mitchell's actions had placed Dugan in an unacceptable position, Roosters defence coach Craig Fitzgibbon confirmed as much when his expert evidence was cross-examined by NRL counsel Peter McGrath.
"You don't want to lose your feet because you don't want to lose control," Fitzgibbon said when questioned on ideal technique for the position Mitchell found himself.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson attended the hearing alongside Mitchell and Fitzgibbon, while NRL CEO Todd Greenberg also watched over proceedings briefly.
Both Mitchell and Robinson refused to offer any comment to waiting media after proceedings.
Earlier on Tuesday afternoon Dugan told reporters that he was still sporting a "stiff" neck from the tackle and had been concerned for his safety during the heat of the moment, but was otherwise unconcerned about the incident.
"I've had neck surgery before, anytime you get caught in a position like that before it is scary but it's one of those things it's a hard thing to determine," Dugan said.
"I'm backing into the tackle or whatever and he's come over on top of me."
Mitchell will now join enforcer Dylan Napa for a nervous night in the stands next week, with the Queensland Origin prop also serving a suspension until the last weekend of September.
He will also bear another 95 carry-over points to his name as a result of challenging his ban unsuccessfully.
Veteran utility Mitch Aubusson is Mitchell's likely replacement out wide, while Siosiua Taukeiaho will take over the goalkicking duties with the Roosters confident he will overcome an ankle issue for next week's clash.
In other judiciary results from week one of the finals, Dragons-bound prop Korbin Sims will miss the first two games of next season after taking an early guilty plea for a dangerous throw on future teammate Blake Lawrie.
And Warrior Agnatius Paasi took an early guilty plea for his dangerous contact charge on James Maloney but will not miss any games next year.
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