Retiring NRL champion Billy Slater may have already played his last game unless he can beat a charge over a tackle executed in his team’s win over the Sharks.
The Melbourne Storm fullback denied Cronulla Sharks winger Sosaia Feki a try in the in the corner in the 13th minute of play with a brutal shoulder charge.
Slater was immediately penalised for the shot which saw him rush in from the blindside and knock Feki over the sideline.
Slater was officially charged for a grade one shoulder charge on Saturday.
Retiring NRL champion Billy Slater (pictured with wife Nicole Slater) may have already played his last game unless he can beat a charge for a shoulder charge in his team’s win over the Sharks
Does this tackle by Billy Slater warrant an early and heartbreaking end to his NRL career?
Feki was forced from the field with a shoulder injury shortly afterwards and didn’t return.
According to the NRL judiciary rules the lowest level of punishment for a shoulder charge is a grade one, which is worth 200 points.
Judiciary rules state that every 100 points constitutes a game suspension so Slater will only be able to play if he beats the charge completely.
An early guilty plea will not help him.
One of Slater’s opponents from Friday, Luke Lewis, has jumped to the star fullback’s defence in the wake of the game.
‘What do you want him to do?’, Lewis told the Herald Sun.
One of Slater’s opponents from Friday, Luke Lewis (pictured with wife Sonia Di Loreto), has jumped to the star fullback’s defence in the wake of the game
‘He’s one of the best defensive fullbacks in the game and you have to stop a try and put your body on the line.’
‘If someone was to miss a game for something like that, I don’t know what our game would be coming to. It’s a contact sport.’
Exactly a decade ago his captain, Cameron Smith, was controversially rubbed out of the Grand Final for a grapple tackle in a final against the Brisbane Broncos.
If Slater does miss the Grand Final pundits are tipping that Storm star Cameron Munster will be moved to fullback.
The tackle is headed towards one of the most controversial match reviews and possible judiciary case in the modern day era of the game.
Slater faces an anxious few days following Storm’s 22-6 preliminary final win at AAMI Park on Friday night to book a third consecutive grand final berth.
He potentially faces a minimum two week suspension if charged by the NRL Match Review Committee.
Even a one match suspension would see Slater miss next Sunday’s NRL grand final in Sydney after recently announcing this season would be his last.
Justin Hodges (2015), Issac Luke (2014), Cameron Smith (2008) and Steve Price (2004) are among the big names who have missed grand finals due to suspension.
The Cronulla Sharks winger was injured in the tackle and didn’t return to the field
Slater played Friday night’s game like it was his last, scoring a try off a grubber and setting up another to help give Storm a 20-0 half-time lead.
The shoulder charge sparked debate between league legends commentating for Channel 9.
‘If the review committee see that as a shoulder charge that’s an automatic 200 points,’ Brad Fittler said.
Andrew Johns added: ‘Unfortunately, it’s going to be deemed a shoulder charge, which I don’t agree with, everyone else doesn’t agree with, but under the rules that’s a shoulder charge.’
Slater didn’t think there was any malice in the tackle.
Slater (pictured) scored in Melbourne Storm’s preliminary final win against Cronulla at AAMI Park
‘I was coming across at speed and actually thought Feki was going to step back on the inside. It was a collision in the end,’ an emotional Slater told Channel Nine after the match.
‘It was one of those things where both players were running at speed to get to a position. It would have been an awkward place to place my head if I had to duck down.’
The tackle sparked mixed opinion on social media.
‘If Billy Slater misses the grand final because of that innocuous bump that didn’t go high or cause any harm at all they may as well cancel the NRL,’comedian Dave Hughes tweeted.
Billy Slater (pictured) may have played his last NRL game on Friday night