Canterbury forward Corey Waddell has been found guilty of gouging Gold Coast captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui’s eyes and banned for five matches.
- Stephen Crichton left the field with concussion immediately after the contact
- Crichton also required plastic surgery on his ear
- Finucane said given the opportunity to attempt the tackle again, he would have done nothing differently
The NRL judiciary, comprising Dallas Johnson and Bob Lindner and chaired by Justice Geoffrey Bellew, deliberated for roughly 15 minutes on Tuesday night before unanimously finding Waddell’s contact with Fa’asuamaleaui had been dangerous and reckless.
The match review committee referred Waddell directly to the NRL judiciary on a dangerous contact charge, meaning he had no option to enter a plea.
Waddell told the judiciary he had been attempting to bring Fa’asuamaleaui to the ground in a tackle when his arm reached over a teammate and onto the lock’s forehead.
Waddell insisted he had only touched the forehead and bridge of Fa’asuamaleaui’s nose, doing so by accident and without applying pressure.
But after listening to NRL counsel Patrick Knowles, the judiciary was satisfied Waddell’s middle and index fingers had come into contact with Fa’asuamaleaui’s eye socket.
Eye gouge posed risk of injury
Knowles said it was “implausible” no contact had been made with the eyes given their proximity to the nose and forehead, adding there would be no reason for Waddell’s hand to be on Fa’asuamaleaui’s face in a tackle if not to apply pressure.
I have presented a close-up image of the incident that the judiciary found to be persuasive.
Waddell’s counsel, Nicolaous Ghabar, said video footage of the incident did not reveal whether there had been scraping or digging across the eye consistent with posing serious risk of injury.
But the judiciary found there was risk of injury regardless of the nature of the contact with the eye.
Ghabar questioned why Fa’asuamaleaui had not been called to give evidence and given the lack of visible injury caused by Waddell’s actions, whether he had played for a penalty by complaining to the on-field referee.
Knowles said the referee’s incident report was evidence enough that Fa’asuamaleaui felt his eyes had been contacted and said players would be reluctant to give evidence against fellow players due to an unwritten code.
Knowles suggested a ban of at least five matches, citing Waddell’s apparent lack of contrition and the serious nature of making contact with a rival player’s eye.
Ghabar said Waddell did not demonstrate a lack of contrition, but genuinely felt the contact was an accident.
He said the “modest level of force” and “low level contact” with the eyes were consistent with a two-match suspension, but he was unsuccessful.
The judiciary opted to hand Waddell a five-match ban in the hopes it would stop other players from committing similar offenses.
He will miss upcoming games against Newcastle, North Queensland, the Warriors, Parramatta and Cronulla and will not be available for selection until the Bulldogs’ final game of the season, to be played against Manly.
Finucane cops two-week suspension
Meanwhile, Cronulla forward Dale Finucane has been suspended for two weeks after the NRL judiciary unanimously found his contact with Penrith’s Stephen Crichton to be both dangerous and careless.
Finucane escaped on-field sanction after replays revealed it was his head rather than arm or shoulder that contacted Crichton, who left the field concussed and in need of plastic surgery to repair his ear after the round 19 clash.
After unsuccessfully fighting his charge, Finucane said suspending him for an accidental head clash had set a precedent.
“I was quite surprised with the outcome, given it was an accidental offense, and given our game hasn’t seen accidental head contact sanctioned before,” he told reporters.
The match review committee charged him with grade-three dangerous contact and suggested a two-match suspension.
On Tuesday night, Finucane risked having his ban increased by pleading his case before the judiciary, made up of former players Dallas Johnson and Bob Lindner, and chaired by Justice Geoffrey Bellew.
He told the panel as Cronulla were down by four points with less than 10 minutes remaining, he rushed out of the line towards Crichton in an attempt to stifle the Panthers’ momentum.
Finucane said given the opportunity to attempt the tackle again, he would have done nothing differently but he had since apologized to Crichton for hurting him.
NRL counsel Patrick Knowles and Nicolaous Ghabar, counsel for Finucane, debated whether Finucane’s rushing out of the line at such pace was dangerous, and whether he was careless in his duty to play the game responsibly.
Ghabar said a head clash had only occurred because Crichton “dipped” and changed his position at the last moment, by which time it was too late for Finucane to adjust his tackle technique.
Knowles argued Finucane was only unable to adjust his tackle technique because he had run out of the line at such pace that he was unable to control his actions and his balance.
He argued Crichton was in a vulnerable position and if he had “dipped”, it was only to brace for impact.
The judiciary deliberated for roughly 25 minutes before determining Crichton’s injury proved Finucane had behaved dangerously, and while he was free to rush out of the line to tackle Crichton his doing so at such pace was nevertheless careless.