Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater has been found not guilty of a shoulder charge by the NRL judiciary, clearing the way for him to finish his career in Sunday’s Grand Final.
Slater was charged with a grade one shoulder charge for his hit on Sosaia Feki in the Storm’s win over the Sharks in the Grand Final Qualifier.
Slater was flanked by Storm coach Craig Bellamy and CEO Dave Donaghy as he arrived at NRL Headquarters.
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Slater told the panel of Sean Garlick, Bob Lindner and Mal Cochrane that the contact on Feki was unavoidable and the shoulder charge was not deliberate.
“The whole time my intention was to make a tackle,” Slater said.
“It happens earlier than I expected to do but I’m still attempting to wrap my right arm.
“I’ve got a duty to make a tackle, the duty of care is to myself and player Feki.
“To ensure I don’t make a high tackle is a duty to Feki. I feel the contact that was made was unavoidable once he veered back in.
“I think the decisions I made ensured the safest possible contact was made.”
The NRL’s lawyer Anthony La Surdo argued while it might have been Slater’s intention to make a tackle, that’s not what happened.
“What you intended to do and what you ended up doing are two different things, there was no attempt to wrap both arms was there?” La Surdo asked.
“I disagree with that,’ Slater replied.
Defence counsel Nick Ghabar told the panel there was no intent and the initial contact with Feki was via Slater’s pec and not his shoulder.
“Could anything different be done? You will find this situation was handled in the safest possible manner maintaining a duty of care to himself, player Feki and his team,” Ghabar said.
It took the panel almost an hour of deliberations before it returned with the not guilty verdict.
Outside NRL Headquarters Slater thanked the judiciary for its decision.
“It was important I got my attention across and my intentions across,” Slater said.
“Now it’s important to focus on the game.”