The NRL Match Review Committee has charged Billy Slater with a grade one shoulder charge – ruling him out of the grand final next weekend.
However, the Melbourne Storm can fight the charge if they are to have any hopes of sending Slater out on a fairytale ending.
Unless they can pitch a successful case to beat the shoulder charge ruling at the NRL judiciary, Slater’s career will be ended devastatingly early.
Slater faced a nervous wait to see if he was going to be sanctioned for the hit on Cronulla’s Sosaia Feki – a grade on attracting 200 demerit points and a one game ban.
But the Melbourne Storm have confirmed they will indeed contest the decision.
Storm boss Frank Ponissi addressed the decision on Triple M, to confirm the club’s position on the matter.
“It’s gone from worrying to the reality that he has been charged,” Ponissi said
— Melbourne Storm (@storm) September 22, 2018
“At the end of the day it is going to come down to a legal argument and we need to get the best legal representation.
“We are confident we can beat the charge.”
Slater indicated after the match he didn’t think he would be charged and labelled the incident an “unfortunate collision” as he was rushing to save a try.
The retiring superstar put on a first-half clinic at AAMI Park, scoring two tries and setting up another to power the Storm to an unassailable 20-0 lead that the Sharks never looked like recovering from.
But it was Slater’s 14th minute try-saver on Sosaia Feki that garnered all the attention, after the veteran fullback was penalised for a last-ditch shoulder charge on the winger as he looked set to cross.
“I wasn’t worried at the time,” Slater said, without having seen a replay.
“When it was a penalty I thought what was the penalty for, but then I realised I got my body in an awkward position.
“I thought he was going to step inside me hence why I got my body in an awkward position.
“It’s pretty hard to make a conventional tackle when you’re going across at top speed trying to save a try like that … It was just a collision.”
The loss of Slater will be a massive blow to the Storm, given he is still close to his best despite being 317 games into his NRL career.
The charge comes after Sharks coach Shane Flanagan declared on Friday night he should be free to play in the decider and stand-in captain Luke Lewis questioned how he could be suspended at all.
“What do you want him to do?” Lewis said.
“He’s one of the best defensive fullbacks in the game and you have to stop a try and put your body on the line.
“If someone was to miss a game for something like that, I don’t know what our game would be coming to. It’s a contact sport.
“I don’t think there was anything in it to be honest. If there’s anyone I want see play on grand final day, it’s Billy Slater.”
The judiciary hearing is expected to be set for Monday evening.