The brother of a player killed by a shoulder charge has blasted the NRL judiciary’s decision to let Billy Slater play in the grand final.
Slater’s dream of bowing out with a premiership is alive after overturning a shoulder charge citing in a mammoth three-hour judiciary hearing on Tuesday.
In arguably the biggest judiciary case of the NRL era, an anxious Slater took centre stage as he pleaded his case on why his career shouldn’t end with a shoulder charge ban.
Both sides argued for two hours before Slater was made to sweat another 54 minutes before the three-person panel of Mal Cochrane, Bob Lindner and Sean Garlick found Slater not guilty.
The decision has divided opinion in the rugby league world, but one man is furious with Slater’s let-off.
Andrew Ackerman took to social media on Tuesday night to decry how the decision was an ‘insult’ to his late brother.
James Ackerman died in 2015 after a shoulder charge ruptured an artery in his neck during a game in the Queensland Cup.
“The ‘shoulder charge’ door was opened back up tonight and this helpless guy was insulted,” Andrew posted on Facebook alongside a photo of brother James in hospital.
“Rugby League is just a game, life is not!!”
A coroner found that no contact was made with James’ head or neck, but the force upon his shoulder resulted in his death from a traumatic haemorrhage.
The tragedy was one of the driving forced behind the NRL’s decision to completely ban the shoulder charge two years ago.
On Sunday, Andrew also took to social media with a desperate plea to the NRL to uphold Slater’s ban.
“Once again, when the shoulder charge comes into play this bloke right here (he pointed to a picture of James) is mentioned,” Andrew said.
“Now he is dead as the result of a shoulder charge. I watched him die that day, it’s not something I thought I’d ever have to watch.
“Whenever it’s brought up, we relive the past and I am sick of it. I am so, so sick of it. I want to scream, I want to break something, but I’m not that type of bloke.
“Now Billy Slater should be found guilty of a shoulder charge. I know there was no malice nor intent to hurt in this tackle. No one was injured. But a shoulder charge was used.”
How Slater and lawyer convinced the judiciary
Slater twice got up in front of the panel to demonstrate how Sosaia Feki’s step had resulted in the 35-year-old taking evasive action to avoid dangerous contact with the Cronulla winger.
He claimed that despite the collision, his right hand was the first point of contact and his left hand had attempted to grab Feki’s right arm.
He also suggested Feki cocked his elbow prior to the collision, forcing Slater to turn his body, and that it was the force from his hip that cannoned the Sharks player over the sideline.
“I’ve still got a tenderness on my hip today and it was four days ago. That was the force of the hips colliding,” Slater said during the hearing.
The controversial decision is likely to ignite further debate on the shoulder charge, with former Kangaroos captain Brad Fittler claiming the ruling would set a precedent prior to the hearing.