WANDERERS back-rower Ben Ham will play against Hamilton in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union grand final after the Two Blues successfully challenged a suspension at the judiciary on Wednesday night.
Ham was sent to the sinbin for a repeated team infringement in the Two Blues’ 43-17 win over Southern Beaches in the preliminary final. The yellow card for offside at the ruck was his third for the season which triggers a one-match suspension.
However, under the Australian Rugby Union disciplinary guidelines adopted by the NHRU this season, yellow cards resulting in a temporary suspension can be challenged at the judiciary. The appeal must be lodged within 48 hours and negates the automatic ban.
In a ground breaking case, the panel of Doug Williams, Mark Davison and Darryl Stappleton ruled the sinbin sufficient penalty. In handing down the finding they noted that two of Ham’s three yellow cards were for team instigated infringements, and believed, as an isolated offence, the offside would not have warranted a yellow card. They also took into consideration the spacing of the cards – rounds 1, 15 and preliminary final – and the player’s contribution to the game.
Wanderers coach Viv Paasi welcomed the “fair” decision.
“It was the right outcome and sets a good precedent,” Paasi said. “It would have been disappointing for anyone to miss a grand final for being offside.”