Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has been found guilty of a dangerous tackle on Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga and will miss the next two Telstra Premiership games against the Panthers and Bulldogs.
After 80 minutes of evidence about the tackle in the round 11 match at McDonald Jones Stadium, which the Roosters lost 38-12, NRL judiciary panel members Mal Cochrane, Bob Lindner and Dallas Johnson took 35 minutes to find Waerea-Hargreaves guilty.
The Roosters had asked for a one-week delay to the hearing because the team had a round 12 bye.
The charge related to a tackle Waerea-Hargreaves made on Ponga in the 58th minute.
The tackle was deemed legal on the field but the NRL's match review committee charged Waerea-Hargreaves with dangerous contact to the head/neck.
The charge carried a base penalty of 100 points, but Waerea Hargreaves had 85 carry-over points, in addition to loading from prior similar and non-similar offences in the past two years.
It was Waerea-Hargreaves second brush with the judiciary within a month. He escaped a crusher tackle charge on Canberra's Dunamis Lui in round nine by taking an early plea, which allowed him to play the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
But he will now have to sit on the sidelines for a fortnight, which will have an impact on the Roosters already dealing with four players on NSW Origin duty and two other injured absentees in Luke Keary (concussion) and Jake Friend (biceps).
The Roosters lost their past two games against the Broncos and Knights) before the bye.
“I thought we had a fair case and obviously came here with high hopes but it wasn’t our night,” Waerea-Hargreaves said after the hearing, where he pleaded not guilty for tackling Ponga dangerously after he had kicked the ball.
But the 30-year-old Roosters enforcer felt he did not need to change his technique.
“Not at all. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing, learn from it, and move on," he said.
Ponga was at dummy-half and on the fifth tackle when he grubbered the ball towards the western sideline. He was immediately hit by Waerea-Hargreaves with both players ending up on the ground.
The 21-year-old lay on his back and didn’t move as a Knights trainer approached. His teammates immediately swarmed all over the New Zealand international.
“It was my role, my job, to put kick pressure on. I feel I committed to the tackle,” he told the judiciary on Tuesday night.
“I don’t think it was careless or reckless. I believed I was entitled to complete the tackle.
“A kicker knows a tackler is allowed the opportunity to tackle him to the ground.”
NRL prosecutor Peter McGrath agreed the initial contact by the Roosters forward was made to Ponga’s right shoulder and collarbone area.
“But it was late and then went on to be dangerous contact by continuing on with the tackle in the way he did,” McGrath said.
“He was putting all his weight to bear, effectively 114 kilograms, to the head of Ponga – a player in a vulnerable position having just kicked the ball.
“There was ample opportunity to not make the tackle because Waerea-Hargreaves was in close proximity and not running in from a distance, or running at great speed. There was also no cradling, or care, in bringing player Ponga gently to the ground.”
Waerea-Hargreaves explained why he ended up on top of Ponga.
“I stuck to him the whole way," he said.
"My legs leaving the ground meant that because of the force I hit Kalyn with, my body went up and over him."
Waerea-Hargreaves added that he wasn’t trying to smother the ball but just pressure Ponga into spraying the kick or making an error.
Counsel for Waerea-Hargreaves James McLeod said the close proximity of the pocket referee and a touch judge meant it was reasonable to assume they saw nothing illegal with the tackle because there was no penalty, sin-bin, of the incident being placed on report.
“At no point do we agree it was late,” McLeod told the judiciary.
“There was some sort of incidental contact (with Ponga’s head) on the ground in completing the tackle. But he did so with a legitimate technique."
McLeod added that Waerea-Hargreaves had not driven his shoulder into Ponga’s neck or head, and had made no second effort.
McGrath submitted the interchange report from the game as evidence to show the amount of time Ponga was off the field undergoing his HIA tests.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson had earlier on Tuesday named Waerea-Hargreaves in his line-up to face the Panthers at Penrith Stadium, but will now be considering his options.
|Minute of match||58th|
|Charge/incident||Dangerous contact - head/neck|
|Result||Guilty at panel|
|Matches to serve||2|
|Misconduct on whom?||Kalyn Ponga|