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As it happened: NRL Judiciary - Smith successful; Asofa-Solomona guilty

Live coverage of the NRL judiciary hearings for Reimis Smith and Nelson Asofa-Solomona.

Smith successfully avoided a two-match ban by having his grade two careless high tackle charge downgraded, while Asofa-Solomona was banned for one match after being found guilty of a contrary conduct charge.

Refresh this page for regular updates during the night.

8.24pm: In possibly one of the quickest decisions ever – Nelson Asofa-Solomona has been found guilty. Penalty of 170 demerit points, a one-match ban.

8.20: The jury is now deliberating at 8.19.

7.56pm: McGrath goes on to say that Asofa-Solomona was “using [Vuna’s head] as a sort of pillow to lean on”.

He adds that the “adroit” manner in which the Storm enforcer then plays the ball is proof that he could “very easily” have stepped over Vuna from the start to avoid contact.

The act, he says, was “done with complete awareness of the situation”.

He tells the panel that if they are unable to deem the contact deliberate that they should find Asofa-Solomona not guilty.

But he says the video evidence is damning.

The Melbourne star’s lawyer Nick Ghabar is now making his submission.

Ghabar claims the contact was “totally incidental” with his client’s right leg dropping as he tried to plant his foot to get up “perhaps rather clumsily”.

“He’s a large man, there’s no question about that,” Ghabar says.

“[Vuna’s] only intention was to grab hold and then drop to the ground as quickly as possible.”

Ghabar asks the panel to consider the fact that in his eyes, Vuna put himself in the situation by employing obvious “spoiling tactics” to slow the play-the-ball.

“The question of fairness needs to be asked in relation to both players,” Ghabar says, adding that Vuna “was not entitled” to be lying in the ruck after holding onto Asofa-Solomona.

He points out that Vuna continued to hold Asofa-Solomona’s leg even when the contact occurred.

Ghabar asks that if Vuna was so inconvenienced by the contact, wouldn’t he be doing his best to get the leg off him?

7.46pm: NRL prosecutor Peter McGrath’s case is that Asofa-Solomona made “unnecessary”, “avoidable” and “deliberate” contact with Vuna’s head, going against the “true spirit of the game”.

He says Vuna was in a vulnerable position on the ground but Asofa-Solomona – frustrated because he was being prevented from playing the ball – knelt “on that player’s head as part of getting to his feet” in a “squashing motion”.

“Asofa-Solomona could see quite clearly where his head is,” McGrath says.

7.31: Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s hearing is underway.

The Storm prop, appearing via video link alongside Ryan Hoffman and being represented by Nick Ghabar, has pleaded not guilty to grade-one contrary conduct in a bid to avoid a one-game ban and face the Warriors at Gosford on Sunday.

The charge stemmed from a 52nd-minute incident against the Titans last Saturday. Asofa-Solomona’s knee appeared to make contact with Joseph Vuna’s head as the Melbourne forward fought to play the ball.

Asofa-Solomona charged twice

7.17: The verdict is in. Smith has successfully had his charge downgraded and been fined $1600, avoiding a two-match ban.

7.01pm: The panel is now deliberating.

6.56pm: In addressing the Waqa Blake comparable grade-one incident, Ghabar brands it “significantly more careless” than Smith’s case.

He accepts that Manly player Karl Lawton also dropped in height before Blake made contact but nowhere near as much as Jolliffe did.

Despite that, Ghabar says that Blake’s incident was properly graded as a grade one.

He says the similarities between the incidents regarding the ball-runner’s drop in height mean Smith’s offence should also be a grade one.

Judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew is now recapping the submissions and instructing the panel. One of his instructions is to deem the Blake incident “unhelpful” if the panelists conclude it wasn’t graded correctly.

6.45pm: “One of the very important elements is that whilst player Jolliffe was dropping he was still going forward,” Ghabar says.

“He loses [traction with] his right leg and he stumbles forward into the contact.

“Frankly, if he hasn’t fallen at least a foot and a half, he’s fallen a significant amount in that fraction of a second.

“[It was] a very fast and a very substantial drop in player Jolliffe’s head height.”

Ghabar admits that Smith “probably could have managed it a bit better” but was put in a very tricky position.

6.35pm: Smith is relying upon a comparable incident – a grade one careless high tackle from Eels centre Waqa Blake earlier this year – to demonstrate why he also deserves a lesser grading.

But McGrath describes Blake's shot on a Manly player as a "much more conventional tackle" than Smith's offence.

The key differences, he says, are that Blake made first contact with his opponent and did not go in with a clenched fist "but with his hands open".

"The degree of force that player Blake enters the tackle with is much less," McGrath says.

Nick Ghabar is now making his submission in defence of Smith.

He disputes McGrath's claim that Smith had ample time to consider his technique and argues that Loiero's influence on the tackle is a mitigating factor.

Ghabar says that had Jolliffe not been stumbling after Loiero's contact – when Smith was already committed – there would have been no issue with Smith's tackle.

6.18pm: NRL prosecutor Peter McGrath starts his submission by outlining some of the “grading factors”.

“We’ll see a level of force in the contact that has been graded as moderate,” McGrath says.“Jolliffe was running at speed,” he adds, with the Titans player breaking through the first tackle from Trent Loiero.

“Smith is standing a metre or so behind and has time to consider the type of tackle he makes,” McGrath posits.

He claims there was a “clenching of the fist” from Smith “and he swings his fist in a vertical plane” but says there is no suggestion of a swinging arm. However, McGrath notes that direct contact was made with Jolliffe’s head regardless of Smith’s intentions.

“It does create a higher risk of injury and in this case, from the material you have before you in evidence, you’ll see the referee reported that there was high contact,” he tells the panel.

Jolliffe was replaced with a free interchange in the 66th minute and didn’t take further part in the match.

6.04pm: Reimis Smith’s hearing has started. The Storm centre, who is appearing on video link alongside Frank Ponissi, is being represented by Nick Ghabar.

He is attempting to have a grade two careless high tackle  on Titans prop Jaimin Jolliffe downgraded. Smith was sin-binned for the offence at the time.

He’ll be free to face the Warriors on Sunday if he successfully proves his case but will miss two weeks if the panel upholds the original grading.

6pm: The schedule for the hearings is:

  • 6pm – Reimis Smith (Storm)
  • 7.30pm – Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Storm)

The judiciary panel consists of Ben Creagh, Sean Garlick and Tony Puletua.


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