The NRL judiciary of Bob Lindner, Mal Cochrane, and Sean Garlick was on a hiding to nothing hearing the shoulder charge against Billy Slater.
With public opinion heavily in favour of Slater being forced to watch the grand final from the stand in his last game before retirement, it would have been so easy to go with the flow.
But the trio was made of sterner stuff than to take that cop-out option.
They found Slater innocent of the charge on fact. They did not make the decision to allow him to play the final game of his stellar career at the big dance just because he’s a legend and an Immortal-in-waiting.
Four days ago I wrote Slater was innocent, and was pilloried for the comment.
The shoulder charge law states: “Point of contact from the defender must be forceful and from the shoulder or upper arm, with no attempt to wrap the arms in the tackle.”
Sure, Slater’s tackle of Sharks winger Sosaia Feki was forceful, but the fullback’s right arm was always the key factor.
Countless stills clearly show Slater’s arm was on an upward trend across Feki’s chest to his left shoulder, negating any shoulder charge.
Which begs the question as to why Slater was penalised in the first place? All the talk after the match was of the refs’ failure to rule a penalty try. With the benefit of hindsight, that now seems absurd.
The answers are now irrelevant, but no doubt there will be countless tall-poppy-chopping naysayers condemning the judiciary throughout the day.
It’s worth repeating the panel made their decision on the law as it applied to the tackle, and not on any emotional grounds.
It would be a fitting finale if Billy Slater turns in a blinder, and rides into the sunset wearing the Clive Churchill Medal – his third – around his neck.
Read more: theroar.com.au