NRL responds to Harry Grant judiciary verdict

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The NRL has weighed in on the judiciary’s decision to clear Harry Grant for making dangerous contact in the Storm’s loss to Cronulla. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The NRL concedes the decision to sin bin Harry Grant “may be considered harsh” but it won’t stop trying to protect kickers after the Storm skipper was cleared by the judiciary on Tuesday night.

Grant was sent to the sin bin for a challenge on Cronulla’s Daniel Atkinson that his lawyer Nick Ghabar described as “completely innocuous and not dangerous” at Tuesday’s hearing.

The Storm hooker was hit with a grade 1 dangerous contact charge and faced a $1500 fine if he lost at the judiciary, but club officials were so confident that he’d done nothing wrong that they challenged it in a landmark case.

The judiciary panel of Tony Puletua and Sean Hampstead unanimously found him not guilty, with the summary revealing they found the contact to be dangerous but Grant hadn’t acted carelessly given he’d slowed down and tried to avoid the kicker.

“We accept the decision of the judiciary in finding Harry was not careless,” NRL head of football Graham Annesley said.

“However, the published decision of the panel did find the action was dangerous with an unacceptable risk of injury.

“Last night’s decision was the system working as it was designed by providing players with the opportunity to present their case. Harry argued he was not careless, and the judiciary accepted his evidence.

“While the on-field use of the sin bin may be considered harsh in this case due to the minimal force involved, match officials will continue to treat each case on its merits and act in the interests of player safety.”

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Graham Annesley says there is no crackdown on dangerous contact, but has warned defenders they risk being penalised if they touch kickers in dangerous positions. Picture: Albert Perez/Getty Images

The NRL confirmed on Monday that there was no directive sent to referees or Bunker officials to crack down on contact with kickers in a year where there have already been several nasty incidents.

Lachlan Ilias suffered a season-ending broken leg in NSW Cup that led to Freddy Lussick being banned for four matches, while Josh Aloiai, Jacob Host and Sandon Smith have also been suspended this year.

There has been frustration from some fans and former players over inconsistent rulings given Smith was suspended but wasn’t penalised on the field, while Grant was sent to the sin bin but then beat his charge.

But it’s clear that players are on notice, with Roosters lock Victor Radley conceding defenders have to do everything they can to protect kickers if they decide to apply pressure.

“Just don’t go hit the kicking leg. It’s pretty black and white, I think,” he said.

“Lachlan Ilias broke his leg on it and then someone in reserve grade kind of got pumped (Brad Schneider), so it is dangerous. Don’t attack that kicking leg.”