September 24, 2008 MELBOURNE captain Cameron Smith has been found guilty of a grapple tackle at the NRL judiciary and suspended for the rest of the NRL season.
Smith was handed a two-game suspension for the grade one contrary conduct charge for unnecessary head or neck contact on Brisbane's Sam Thaiday and will miss Melbourne's preliminary final with Cronulla on Friday.
The judiciary panel of Royce Ayliffe, Darrell Williams and Darren Britt took just 20 minutes to decide upon the guilty verdict.
It is a huge blow to the Storm's title defence as the skipper is not only the competition's best hooker but the club's main goalkicker.
It also caps a horror day for the club as Test forward Ryan Hoffman was also ruled out for the year after undergoing ankle surgery that puts him out of the World Cup as well.
Smith was found guilty of forceful contact to Thaiday in the 59th minute of last Saturday's semi-final win.
Smith argued that his contact with Thaiday's chin was unintentional and that by the time he realised the dangerous position he “immediately released'' his grip.
“The whole tackle took three seconds. Contact with his face was one second at most, if not less,'' Smith told the panel.
“It is hard to rectify faster than that, I think.''
But prosecutor Peter Kite claimed Smith made two efforts to “yank'' Thaiday's head before he eventually released his dangerous grip.
“There is conduct here that should have been avoided that was not avoided,'' Kite said.
Smith is only the third player since 2005 to be found guilty of a grapple tackle by a judiciary panel.
Teammate Hoffman (2005) and St George Illawarra prop Jason Ryles (2007) were also banned two weeks after being found guilty by the panel.
Six players in four years have successfully argued against grapple charges at the judiciary.
Smith is the highest-profile and his penalty of potentially missing a grand final is indeed the harshest.
Smith joins fellow internationals Jeremy Smith (suspension) and Hoffman (ankle injury) on the sidelines for the crucial clash with the Sharks.
Jeremy Smith will at least be available should the Storm reach the grand final as he had earlier accepted a one-game ban for his chicken wing offence in the same tackle on Thaiday.
Thank god, finally some justice at the pointy end of the season, most seasons they would have turned the blind eye, great to see not even the aussie captain is above the rules of the game. I would feel the same if it had of been a warriors that made that tackle.
Man, I'm watching NRL on FOX and Gary Belcher is defending him to the death! They discussed it and he was up in arms about 'the Australian captain missing out on the Grand Final' 'It's just not fair'. Whinge whinge whinge,