The Sydney Roosters will be forced to rely on a third-string hooker to get them to the grand final after Sam Verrills was banned for two games in the NRL.
In a night of horror for the Roosters, Verrills failed in his attempt to see his reckless high tackle load reduced to a fine.
The No.9 Roosters bowed their heads in disappointment at the verdict, knowing he would miss Friday’s semi-final against Manly.
He will also skip the preliminary final against South Sydney if they win, meaning he will only return if they reach the decider on October 3.
That means Trent Robinson will likely have to look to No.9 rookie Ben Marschke, who started the year outside the Roosters’ top 30 and behind Jake Friend and Verrills.
It comes after the Roosters already lost Rep Siosiua Taukeiaho to a calf complaint.
Verrills could have accepted a one-game ban for the prosecution, but his attempt to demote him from a level two to a level one proved costly.
During an 80-minute hearing, Verrills’ legal team argued that the model had minimal guilt for recovering the face of Gold Coast center Brian Kelly.
Lawyer James McLeod has claimed the shooting was almost a flawless incident in the rugby league, saying the force was caused by Kelly and Verrills’ teammate Sitili Tupouniua.
Verrills did not speak during the hearing, but watched by video link McLeod claiming Kelly fell into his shoulder after violently charging the line and deflecting Tupouniua.
“This case is also a reminder that you can at the elite level of the rugby league where you can have high contact where there is very little harm done by the defending player,” McLeod said.
“It happens sometimes, it is a reality.”
“He doesn’t throw his arm forward.
“Sam has the least role in terms of the force generated and the result.”
McLeod also claimed that a Junior Paulo hit in Parramatta’s win over Newcastle showed less control when he got Kurt Mann back high, only to face a lower front row load.
The defense also made an emotional appeal to the three-man panel of Ben Creagh, Bob Lindner and Dallas Johnson to understand the contact as the men who had played the game.
But it only took 13 minutes for the trio to disagree, siding with NRL lawyer Peter McGrath, saying Verrills had not been careful enough after aiming to attack above the ball.
“It’s perfectly legitimate, but it carries a risk of head or neck contact and a higher duty of care,” McGrath said.
“(He) comes in direct contact with Kelly’s head or neck.
“Under the circumstances, there are very few mitigating elements that would reduce the severity of the tackle.
“Verrills had a lot of time to prepare. Tupouniua didn’t push Kelly out of his attack line, so Verrills got on the wrong foot.
“And Tupouniua’s impact didn’t go down to (Kelly’s) head level.”