Distraught Sydney Roosters lock Luke Ricketson last night called for an overhaul of rugby league's judicial system after a defence described as the "silliest" put before the tribunal failed to prevent him being banned from Sunday's grand final.
The judiciary was told Roosters players had made a pact not to let opponents stand over them in the finals but the panel took 20 minutes to decide a grade-three striking charge should be upheld. The 31-year-old international was banned for three games, starting with the premiership decider against the Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium.
An emotional Ricketson afterwards called for a rethink of judiciary rules and chief executive Brian Canavan said the Roosters would call for debate on the issue before next season.
"The rules - it's time something was done about it," Ricketson, 31, said. "It's a tough ruling, I'm going to have to be a man and get on with it but I'm very disappointed."
Asked whether important matches should be ascribed greater value than club games, Ricketson said: "Everyone has made it pretty [clear] that they think that is the way it should go.
"I've got to sit on the sideline this week."
Ricketson - who ruled out launching an appeal - was asked how many club games a grand final was worth and replied: "Ten; as many as you want. It's an important week for the club. We've got three grades in this weekend. I've been at the club for 14 years and I'm very proud to be a Rooster and I can't be a part of this weekend."
NRL prosecutor Peter Kite earlier told the hearing Ricketson "made a decision - no matter how noble the motive - to strike an opponent by swinging what in the old days would be known as a coathanger".
He said North Queensland half Nathan Fien "had no opportunity to defend himself" and that Ricketson "decided to drop him, he's decided to get in early".
The Roosters' night began poorly when they failed in an attempt to have medical evidence regarding Fien's injuries as a result of the incident ruled inadmissable.
Cowboys trainer Steve Sartore and club doctor Greg Winter told the hearing that Fien had two teeth bent back "at 10 degrees" and suffered lacerations in his mouth and concussion.
Winter, who provided a written report, said Fien would have to have his teeth wired for up to two months.
AdvertisementAdvertisementSydney Roosters captain Brad Fittler, a close friend of Ricketson's who is to retire after Sunday's game, was scathing in his assessment of Fien's push to his head - which prompted the reaction of the veteran lock.
"He was trying to make a statement," the former Australia captain said. "[He was] an inexperienced kid coming down and playing in a big semifinal."
Quizzed by Roosters legal counsel Michael Conn about his intervention with a swinging left arm on Fien, Ricketson said: "It was a pact ... not to take matters into your own hands, but to stand up for your players.
"We played in a game against Auckland [in August], a player came from an offside position and hit one of our players and we stood around and did nothing about it. We were bashed for the next half-an-hour of football ... it was almost an embarrassment to me and my team."
Further questioning on this led to judiciary chairman Greg Woods asking: "Is that your defence? Is that your position, that there was a vow between your players that they would not be stood over and would engage in fisticuffs? That is the silliest submission I have heard at this tribunal."
Roosters coach Ricky Stuart named judiciary members Darrell Williams, Mark Coyne and Mal Cochrane in his submission that "there was a lot of pressure on us to make the grand final, a lot of intensity, a lot of adrenalin, a lot of blood pumping".
But in giving his final directions, Woods told the panel: "On the matter ... making an agreement [to prevent] another team ... intimidating you, any such coaching or pact ... does not undercut the applicable rules of the game."
Canavan said Ricketson would help advise the club's three grades on how to handle the pressures of grand-final appearances. On changing the judicial code, he said: "It deserves debate at all levels. This is a case in point. Every system in our game is under review every year."