In a busy night for the NRL judiciary, Bulldogs international forward Luke Thompson was suspended for four games for an eye gouge while Storm forward Max King was banned for three games for a 'hip drop' tackle.
King is unlikely to play for Melbourne throughout the upcoming NRL finals series after being banned for three matches for a hip-drop tackle on Dragons prop Blake Lawrie.
Thompson was banned despite pleading not guilty to a charge of eye gouging Penrith skipper James Tamou.
"It was never my intention to eye-gouge, or what they accused me of," Thompson said after the three-man panel of former players decided he had carelessly made contact with Tamou's right eye.
"I was just trying to win the tackle – take him to the ground. So I'm a bit confused, disappointed."
King has only played six games in 2020, but would have been in contention for a spot in the Storm's 17 starting with the qualifying final next Saturday night against the Eels at Suncorp Stadium.
King placed on report for tackle on Lawrie
King entered an early guilty plea to making dangerous contact in the 30-22 loss to the Dragons at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium. Tuesday night's judiciary panel merely had to determine the severity of the tackle and a penalty because King was referred directly to Tuesday's hearing from Sunday's game.
He was handed a 500-point penalty but with a 25% discount he will miss three games. The Storm, who finished the season in second place, would have to play all four finals for King to have a chance of playing in the October 25 grand final.
At Tuesday's hearing, medical summaries and a referee's report were submitted in evidence.
NRL prosecutor Peter McGrath showed footage of several other tackles from earlier rounds in 2020 handed a grade two dangerous contact charge, which attracts a two-game ban.
"This is far and away above a grade two, or even three," McGrath said, before suggesting a penalty of four or five games would be appropriate.
"I don't think King intended to make an injury but his actions were reckless, highly reckless."
Thompson had been sent straight to the judiciary for the alleged eye gouge, and will now miss the opening month of next season.
Due to the suspension of the three-Test Ashes series between England and Australia in the off-season due to the COVID global pandemic, Thompson cannot use any of those games as part of his penalty.
At Tuesday's hearing Tamou seemed to backtrack on the seriousness of the incident. He told NRL prosecutor Peter McGrath he was hoping for a penalty for the Panthers because he believed initially he had been eye-gouged. He said he didn't realise the NRL rules meant the allegation would only go on report.
"I felt something around the face and was hoping the referee Henry Peranara would give us a penalty," Tamou told the panel by video link.
"I would have wholeheartedly believed it (was an eye gouge) if I haven't seen the footage. I don't think that it was intentional. It didn't do any damage to my eye. It was fine during the game and after it.
"I think if Luke really wanted to do some damage he could have. But he moved his hand away and my eye was fine. I don't think there was any intent in it."
Thompson on report for alleged eye-gouge
In evidence Thompson said he was trying to pull Tamou to the ground along with teammate Josh Jackson.
"When I realised he wasn't coming down, I had to readjust my grip. So I put my weight over his (Tamou's) shoulder," Thompson said, adding he wasn't aware of where his right hand was placed.
"I thought I was around his neck area, on his face. My only purpose was to try and get him down."
The panel found him guilty of making contact but deemed it careless, rather than dangerous or reckless. That meant a shorter suspension time.
Regardless, Thompson becomes the fourth player in the past 15 months to be accused of eye-gouging.
In July last year George Burgess was given a nine-game ban although he denied poking Robbie Farah in the eyes. A month later and Cowboys prop Josh McGuire sat out three weeks for massaging David Fifita's face in the Queensland derby against the Broncos.
Then in September Raiders forward Hudson Young received an eight-game suspension for attacking Warriors winger Adam Pompey's eyes. It was his second offence as he had earlier been banned for five games for gouging Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman.