The NRL judiciary panel took just five minutes to find Roosters firebrand Jared Waerea-Hargreaves guilty of a grade one dangerous contact last night, handing the prop a one-match suspension that rules him out of Saturday's qualifying final against Manly.
The panel ignored an impassioned plea for leniency from Waerea-Hargreaves, who was outed after his elbow collected South Sydney back-rower Chris McQueen while McQueen was trying to tackle the Roosters firebrand in last Friday's minor premiership decider.
Panel members Chris McKenna, Paul Whatuira and Sean Garlick heard from Waerea-Hargreaves that he used his non-ball carrying arm as a "bumper" – an attacking technique designed to bump off opposition defenders – and that he did not come into contact with McQueen's neck.
"I instinctively used a bumper to brace for contact," Waerea-Hargreaves said during the hearing. "That's what front-rowers do. I know I hit him in the upper-chest, collar bone, lower neck area. There was no intent or malice. As a front-rower, you use the bumper to protect yourself. There was no closed fist."
The Roosters presented three additional camera angles at real speed for the panel to consider through lawyer James McLeod.
NRL prosecutor Peter Kite argued that Waerea-Hargreaves's run was "very clearly dangerous" and that McQueen had been "hit firmly". Kite said McQueen was struck in the neck.
Waerea-Hargreaves left NRL headquarters "disappointed" with the decision but paid tribute to the Roosters club for their support. "I thought we had a pretty good hearing," Waerea-Hargreaves said. "[I am] looking forward to the future, moving on and staying positive."
The Roosters welcome back Luke O'Donnell from a three week ban for a lifting tackle, but teammate Frank-Paul Nuuausala said Waerea-Hargreaves' omission would be a bitter blow for his side. "It does hurt us." Nuuausala said. "He's been the best prop all season. We have to share his workload.’’
“We noticed in the off-season he’s been working with Robbo [coach Trent Robinson] on his discipline and how to control his aggression.
The last couple of years he let his aggression get out of control but I reckon this year he’s controlled his aggression and is more composed.”
Waerea-Hargreaves was suspended for five matches after he was sent off for a high tackle on Manly prop George Rose earlier this year. The most recent suspension leaves him with 30 carry over points.
“With Georgey Rose, that was more mistiming, but on the weekend he wasn’t looking to elbow someone in the face, he was trying to fend but he couldn’t extend his arm in time,” Nuuausala said.
“We feed off him. He’s our leader and we feed off Jazza and the way he plays with the energy he brings and the way he carries the ball. If Jazza is not on we have a couple of experienced boys who can step up.’’