Canberra’s Hudson Young will plead not guilty to dangerous contact as the Raiders explore the possibility for his alleged eye-gouging victim Adam Pompey to appear during his judiciary hearing.
Young was referred directly to the judiciary on Tuesday night and faces potentially one of the longest bans of the NRL era having already served a five-week suspension for a similar incident involving Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman.
NRL.com understands that Young, who will be defended by gun lawyer Nick Ghabar, will argue that he did not intentionally make contact with Pompey’s eyes in Saturday’s loss to the Warriors.
Pompey took to social media after the incident to defend Young’s actions, and it’s understood the Raiders are exploring whether the rookie Warrior can appear via video link on Tuesday night.
"Nah your sweet brah," Pompey said in response to Young. "I honestly don’t think anything is wrong with that bala. I didn’t feel anything and I didn’t know you even poked me in the eye."
Raiders captain Jarrod Croker said the club will rally around the under-fire 21-year-old as coach Ricky Stuart expressed fears for his young back-rower's welfare.
"The hysteria raised through this is unfair, there's been some childish comments raised about this," Stuart said.
Match: Storm v Raiders
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
"I'm really disappointed in some of the comments that have been aimed at Hudson. It might sound funny to you, but he's got a mother out there who's really in desperate need for her son, she's very upset and so is Hudson.
"He did not intentionally go in to gouge the young player from the Warriors, and he didn't gouge him, he [Pompey] said that.
"I'm more worried about the personal welfare of Hudson because at this moment he and his family are under a lot of stress and pressure.
"Where he had his hand was stupid and if there was a grading for stupidity that's what it is. Was it a facial, yeah probably a facial, but he had his hand caught on his face after he went in after the ball a second time."
Croker vouched for Young's character and said there will be no shortage of players and staff for him to lean on in this trying time.
"He's going to cop criticism. If there's one thing I can [say] to help with that it's to avoid all that stuff. I'll make sure his well-being is first priority," Croker said at the NRL finals launch on Monday.
"He's a good kid, he's a really good kid. He's had some tough times previously, so to get to where he is today is a real credit to the bloke and player Huddo is.
"He's come a long way. Like I said, he's a really good kid and fits in our system well. We're there to support him."
Road to Finals: Raiders
The media storm around Young has diverted attention from the surprise loss to the Warriors that dropped the Raiders to fourth and consigned them to a trip to Melbourne to face the minor premiers at AAMI Park.
While admitting the performance was "frustrating" and "disappointing", Croker said the team have already moved on.
Canberra produced one of their finest wins in many years when they came back from 18-0 down to beat the Storm 22-18 on their home turf in round 22 and have bottled the belief from that victory.
"There's no good being here if you're not confident. It's going to be a tough challenge - it's always tough in Melbourne, it's tough to play Melbourne wherever you play them," Croker said.
"Down there is extra tough but we're confident we can go down there and do a job."
The 28-year-old Croker was too young to soak up Canberra's last premiership in 1994 but he aspires to be the man who leads the Green Machine to glory again.
"It'd be great for Canberra - the place is buzzing at the moment," he said.
"We've got the best fans down there, they're there rain, hail or shine... They deserve it, they've waited a long time.
"It would be a dream come true. Obviously I've never played in a grand final so to get there would be quite special. That's what dreams are made of."