The not guilty verdict handed down to Anthony Minichiello for his flying elbow on Canberra's Josh Dugan makes some of the recent obstruction rulings seem perfectly logical.

But blame the NRL match review committee headed by Greg McCallum not the three-man judiciary panel of Mal Cochrane, Michael Buettner and Don McKinnon for the outrageous ruling.

Anyone involved in the game knows 'Mini' is one of the best blokes in rugby league.

But there's no way he should be running out for his 250th NRL appearance against the Wests Tigers at Allianz Stadium this Sunday.

Minichiello leapt off the ground and clocked Dugan square in the face with his elbow in the 75th minute of Saturday's 24-20 loss to the Raiders.

He was sent off for the first time in 13 seasons as a professional and slapped with a grade-three striking charge.

It was the wrong charge.

He should have been hit with either a dangerous contact or careless high tackle offence.

Greg Inglis was found guilty of grade-three dangerous contact for his shoulder charge on Dean Young earlier in the season and missed three matches.

You could make a pretty good case to say that Mini's tackle was worse it certainly wasn't any better.

The most serious penalty available for a careless high tackle is a two week ban.

But for Minichiello to be found guilty of striking, NRL prosecutor Peter Kite had to prove the offence was either intentional or reckless.

Minichiello's lawyer, James McLeod, expertly exploited this legal loophole.

First, he had the former golden boot winner testify that he was attempting a 'wrapping tackle' and that the contact was 'careless and clumsy'.

He admitted clocking his opposite number with his elbow but claimed he was merely bracing for contact because Dugan had unexpectedly changed direction at the last second.

The Roosters full-back also revealed he phoned Dugan to apologise the morning after the match and that the Raiders full-back had accepted the tackle wasn't intentional.

In his closing argument, McLeod rammed home the point that the tackle had to be at least reckless meaning Minichiello realised it had gone wrong but followed through anyway for the charge to stick.

He also highlighted the fact his client had never been suspended in 249 NRL games, 19 Tests, 11 Origins, four City-Country games and four Tests for Italy.

It took 26 minutes, but the panel finally delivered the not guilty verdict.

The wrong decision was made, but don't blame Minichiello, Cochrane, Buettner or McKinnon.

And don't expect McCallum to be asked to pinch hit as a video referee any time soon.

Sportal

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