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Overturning Slater ban would set dangerous precedent: Fittler

Brad Fittler has warned the shoulder charge could come back into the NRL if retiring Storm champion Billy Slater's grand final ban is overturned.

Melbourne's bid to have Slater's judiciary hearing brought forward to Monday has been knocked back by the NRL due to logistics, with the Storm to argue Slater had no choice but to make his unconventional tackle on Sosaia Feki on Tuesday night.

That sentiment is gathering momentum across the game as Immortal Darren Lockyer became the latest big name to defend Slater's try-saving tackle, contending that his cover defence effort should not be treated as dangerously as a traditional front-on shoulder charge.

But Fittler, the NSW Origin coach and Roosters legend, argued otherwise on The Footy Show on Channel 9 on Sunday morning, declaring a Slater let-off could result in the practice returning after the NRL first banned shoulder charges in 2013 before again tweaking its interpretations last year.

"The fact it's Billy Slater and a grand final, you've got to take that away from it," Fittler said.

Match Highlights: Storm v Sharks - Finals Week 3; 2018

Melbourne are pulling out all the stops to ensure Slater's 317-game career does not end with an ignominious suspension, hiring defence counsel Nick Ghabar to represent him before the three-man judiciary panel.

Ghabar successfully argued for Justin Hodges to be cleared for his grand final send-off in 2015, the Broncos skipper being the last big name to beat a ban to play in a decider.

Hodges and fellow ex-Queensland and Australian teammate Lockyer have argued the shoulder charge ban was not designed to punish players trying to save tries near the sideline.

"To get rid of the dangerous [shoulder charges] in our games, that's brought in the fact the lesser one, the Billy Slater one, where they come across to save a try, that's caught up in that category," Lockyer said in The Footy Show discussion.

"With the Billy one, I think it would be crazy to see him rubbed out of a grand final for that play."

Should Slater's ban be upheld backline utility Jahrome Hughes is his likely replacement, with Cameron Munster and Brodie Croft striking a good balance in the halves in recent weeks.

 

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