David Fifita won’t play in the State of Origin finale after failing to beat a grade one dangerous contact charge at the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night.
Maroons 18th man Francis Molo, who made his Origin debut in game two, is set to replace Fifita on the interchange.
Fifita’s rap sheet came back to haunt him. With a clean record, he could’ve accepted a fine by taking an early guilty plea for a late hit on Raiders halfback Sam Williams.
But because loading was applied for two non-similar offences in the past two years, the star back-rower was forced to challenge a ban. The 140 points for the guilty verdict mean a game on the sideline.
Gold Coast have a bye this weekend so he can’t serve the suspension at club level.
Fifita was sent to the sin bin for tackling Williams after he passed the ball in the 30th minute of the Titans’ 44-6 win at GIO Stadium on Saturday.
The back-rower, represented by Titans general manager of football Anthony Laffranchi at the hearing, didn’t give evidence.
Laffranchi argued that Fifita had less than one second and one stride to pull out of contact because of Williams’ ball-playing skill.
Fifita sent to sin bin for late hit on Williams
He claimed Fifita, who appeared on his own via video link and wore a Maroons polo, only made moderate contact.
“[Williams shows] positive body language, looking to engage defenders, and in this case, he does with player Fifita," he says.
"Fifita is then committed to tackle Mr Williams … this engagement - as a ball-runner, he has done his job, and Mr Fifita has limited time to change his directive.
"Fifita is committed with his right foot planted on the ground and eyes for the target.
"[Williams] does turn himself and does braces himself for contact, in my opinion.”
That was at odds with the submission of NRL prosecutor Peter McGrath, who argued there was a “heightened risk of unacceptable injury” because Williams had relaxed.
“He's passed the ball, he's entitled to relax in those circumstances," he said.
“In rugby league terms, there was ample time for player Fifita to not make contact.
"[Williams] was never a threat to the defensive line. He received the ball well ahead of it and he played the ball, with his pass, well ahead of the defensive line.”
The 21-year-old forward started in Origin I and II as Queensland were pummelled by NSW and meekly relinquished the shield.
Tuesday was the second time Fifita has headed to the judiciary this season.
He copped a two-match ban for a grade two careless high tackle in round nine and subsequently missed Magic Round.
Earlier in the night, Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was fined $2550 for contrary conduct after failing to convince the NRL judiciary his actions were necessary to protect a teammate.
In the precursor to Fifita's hearing, Waerea-Hargreaves said he was trying to "de-escalate" a melee in Thursday's loss to the Storm.
The veteran forward claimed he only got involved when he saw Melbourne second-rower Felise Kaufusi make a beeline for an unaware Angus Crichton given the pair's "previous history".
However, judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew reminded the panel of Ben Creagh, Bob Lindner and Tony Puletua that having good intentions was not a defence for escalating a situation.
They took seven minutes to find the enforcer guilty. While his wallet took a whack, Waerea-Hargreaves is free to play against the Bulldogs on Saturday.