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As it happened: Verrills suspended; Niukore fined

Follow Tuesday night's judiciary hearing for Roosters hooker Sam Verrills live as he makes his bid to escape a suspension for this week's clash against the Manly Sea Eagles. Update: Verrills receives two-match ban.

Following Verrills' case, Eels forward Marata Niukore will challenge a potential fine for a dangerous contact charge on Knights forward Connor Watson. The judiciary panel consists of Ben Creagh, Dallas Johnson and Bob Lindner. Update: Niukore found guilty; full judiciary results

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9.20pm: Niukore has been found guilty and fined $2400.

8.53pm: The judiciary panel is deliberating now.

8.44pm: Niukore's lawyer Nick Ghabar says the "central issue" is whether his client could reasonably have pulled out of the contact.

He urges the panel to view the incident in "real-time".

"You mustn't sit here and look at the slow-motion vision and look at it through rose-coloured glasses," he says.

He adds that Niukore attempted to "wrap player Watson" and "made contact below the head and neck" before trying to "catch" him to soften the blow.

Ghabar disputes McGrath's claim that Watson was totally vulnerable, noting the Knights lock's forward momentum contributed to the impact.

"There's nothing about that contact that is dangerous," he says.

Judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew is now recapping the arguments and addressing the panel.

8.15pm: Giving evidence, Niukore tells the panel he was concerned that Watson had spotted a gap on his inside shoulder, so he rushed up to close the space.

He insists he didn't see Watson pass the ball before contact was made and argued "there was no possible way of me pulling out of this tackle".

In his submission, NRL prosecutor Peter McGrath says that Niukore made delayed, forceful contact to the unbraced Watson, causing a whiplash effect.

"To put it bluntly, the contact was late and avoidable," McGrath says, adding that Niukore had ample time to see the ball had been passed and pull out of contact.

7.51pm: The hearing for Parramatta second-rower Marata Niukore has begun.

Niukore is free to face Penrith in Saturday night's sudden-death semi-final but is contesting a fine for dangerous contact on Newcastle's Connor Watson.

Niukore could have accepted an $1800 sanction (with loading applied for three non-similar offences in the past three years) with an early guilty plea, which triggers a 25 percent discount.

He will have to cough up the full $2400 penalty if he is unsuccessful.

7.37pm: The verdict is in: Grade-two charge upheld – Verrills receives a two-match ban.

7.19pm: The panel is now deliberating. 

7.05pm: Verrills' representative James McLeod says that "if you're going to apply critical scrutiny", Verrills may have had a "better chance" of avoiding contact with Kelly's face if he didn't get up on his toes before impact.

However, he says that was not an "inherently problematic" or "uncommon action".

Looking at Junior Paulo's comparable grade-one careless high tackle, McLeod says the Eels prop was "less in control", "generated more force", "made flush contact" and launched his shoulder at Kurt Mann.

He adds that Shaun Lane's contact before Paulo joined the tackle provided "an analogy between that scenario and the scenario of Sam Verrills".

And given Paulo's offence occurred on the same weekend as his client's charge, McLeod says it is an example that "strongly suggests the Verrills incident should be a grade one".

On Klemmer's grade-two comparable, which occurred two weeks after Magic Round this year, McLeod declares the Knights forward was more careless and less in control than Verrills.

Judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew is now instructing the panel and recapping arguments.

6.49pm: Making the case for Verrills, McLeod's argument centres on a few key arguments: there was low force, Verrills did not drive his shoulder or step into contact and Tupouniua forced Kelly slightly sidewards into the Roosters hooker's shoulder.

"There was never any launch of the right shoulder of player Verrills," McLeod says.

"All he does is hold his position and stand upright and execute a catching and wrapping motion … That's part of the reason that his culpability is right at the low end of the spectrum."

He continues: "There is impact from Tupouniua to Kelly, which shifts Kelly laterally – probably about 20-30 centimetres … into the path of player Verrills's shoulder.

"[Verrills] is entitled to set himself before the contact with Tupouniua and Kelly a split-second before … He doesn't have time to adjust after the contact between Tupouniua and Kelly.

"There is just not, in reality, time for him to make that modification."

McLeod says the incident "comfortably" falls into grade-one range with Kelly's running speed and Tupouniua's contact having a bigger bearing than Verrills on the force in the tackle.

"It's minimal carelessness," McLeod puts to the panel.

"And if you tap into your experience with defence and making tackles and setting yourself for tackles, I suggest you'll come to the view that he did very little wrong here."

6.32pm: McGrath says there was "moderate force" in the tackle, and while that was chiefly generated by Kelly's running speed, he argues Verrills should have taken it into account as per his duty of care.

"In setting himself for this tackle, player Verrills was always aiming to make the tackle above the ball, in the shoulder area of player Kelly," McGrath says, adding that such a tackle is "perfectly legitimate".

But a miscalculation ended up with the Roosters rake's shoulder/upper arm making "direct contact with the head of player Kelly".

Sitili Tupouniua was also involved in the tackle, but McGrath claims the back-rower did not cause a drop in Kelly's head height or alter his running line.

"There is very little in the way of mitigating features that would reduce the seriousness of the tackle [for Verrills]," McGrath adds.

"It's above the grade-one level, it sits comfortably in the grade-two.

"I concede, if it needs to be conceded – that the speed of the tackle and the degree of force is very much influenced by player Kelly."

McGrath suggests the Klemmer grade-two example is a "useful comparison" with many similarities to Verrills's case.

However, in analysing Paulo's grade-one offence, McGrath argues that Eels forward Shaun Lane knocked Kurt Mann off his running line and "changed the intended target area" for Paulo.

He reiterates his opinion of there being no such mitigating factors in Verrills' situation before wrapping up his submission.

6.14pm: After poring over all angles of the Verrills incident, a "comparable" grade-two careless high tackle – by Knights enforcer David Klemmer on Sea Eagles rookie Ben Trbojevic – is shown.

That is followed by a grade-one offence – which will be relied on by Verrills – from Eels prop Junior Paulo on Newcastle's Kurt Mann.

Verrills won't be giving evidence, so McGrath is beginning his submission.

6.02pm: The hearing for Sam Verrills has started. The Roosters hooker, represented by lawyer James McLeod, is seeking a downgrade of a grade-two careless high tackle charge stemming from a shot on Titans centre Brian Kelly.

If successful, Verrills will be free to face the Sea Eagles in Friday night's knockout semi-final and get away with an $1150 fine. He will cop a two-match ban if the charge is upheld. Verrills opted not to take an early guilty plea that would have resulted in a one-game suspension.

Peter McGrath is the NRL prosecutor.

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