The NRL says referee Henry Perenara did not have "any alternative" but to send Kevin Proctor off for biting Shaun Johnson as Gold Coast teammates urge the club to continue its rebuild next year around the off-contract captain.
Proctor was banned for four games on Tuesday despite Johnson supporting his Kiwi Test teammate at the NRL judiciary, with both players also now facing potential sanctions for discussing the case publicly before the hearing.
Titans official Mal Meninga may also face an NRL punishment for his comments after the incident on Fox League, when he said Proctor "felt that his life was in danger".
Perenara was cross-examined during Tuesday's hearing about the evidence he based Proctor's send-off on, when he inspected a "red mark" on Johnson's arm and was advised by bunker official Steve Chiddy that "I have got some vision of a bite".
Proctor free to play again in 2020
NRL head of football Graham Annesley said despite coach Justin Holbrook being unhappy with the bunker's intervention Perenara had followed correct procedure in sending Proctor off.
"Even if Kevin had been exonerated last night, I don’t believe referee Henry Perenara had any alternative but to take the action he did based on the circumstances he was confronted with," Annesley said in a statement to NRL.com.
"He had a very irate Shaun Johnson verbally claiming to have been bitten, combined with high definition video evidence from the bunker, that at the very least supported Shaun’s claim on a prima facie basis.
"This was a very unique situation compared to previous on-field complaints of biting.
"In most, if not all, previous claims of biting, it has simply come down to one players word against another without any clear video evidence to assist.
"There was no procedural error in the way the referee and the bunker dealt with the matter.
Even if Kevin had been exonerated last night, I don’t believe referee Henry Perenara had any alternativeNRL head of football Graham Annesley
"Our rules allow the bunker to intervene on incidents of alleged foul play, and the referee had every right to take the ultimate step of dismissal based on the information he had available."
At the time of the send-off, scores were tied up at 12-all, but once the Gold Coast were reduced to 12 men Cronulla ran in three tries in seven minutes to set up a comfortable 30-18 win.
Proctor's four-game ban does give him the chance to return again this season for their final two games against Manly and Newcastle.
He is without a Titans contract for next year and has attracted interest from Super League, but Proctor's priority is to remain on the Gold Coast.
Proctor sent off in game 250 for alleged bite
Teammate Jarrod Wallace hailed Proctor's influence at the club and called on the Titans hierarchy to re-sign him and help shape an impressive cohort of young forward recruits in David Fifita, Tino Faasuamaleaui and Herman Ese'ese.
"It's guys like him that build sides," Wallace said.
"With his experience, you need guys like him that have won comps, played Tests, I think having him here definitely makes us a better team right across the board.
"He's led us really well since Ryan James has been injured and I think the club really needs to look at locking him down and keeping him here as a very important part of our team.
"He's obviously gutted about the decision but I think he's taken it pretty well.
"Personally I think it was harsh but I don't think it'll have any effect on him. He's built a great name for himself in the NRL, he's one of the best back-rowers in the comp and has been for a very long time."