Cronulla hooker Michael Ennis has joined a growing chorus of those calling for an NRL fine system after escaping a ban for his grade one high tackle on South Sydney’s Chris McQueen.
The 95-point charge means the Sharks rake is free to play in Saturday night’s semi-final against North Queensland in Townsville.
The winner takes on Melbourne the following week for the right to play in this year’s grand final, while defeat will end a season that promised so much.
Ennis cut a relieved figure upon receiving the news during recovery at North Cronulla Surf Club on Monday, before suggesting alternative punishments for what he deemed as trivial crimes on the field.
“There’s certainly an area amongst the game with grade-ones where I feel like we can look to go down the path of a fine system. But again, people argue people’s salaries,” he said.
“I certainly don’t think you should be missing big games on the back of grade-ones.
“I’d also like to see the finals series, and possibly Origin games, be valued at more points.”
Asked how much sleep he had overnight, Ennis said: “Not a lot. I really didn’t want to have that feeling of letting the team down. Just grateful I get the chance to play now.”
Sharks skipper Paul Gallen thought the grade-one slap was a harsh penalty because there was no malice in the tackle.
“It was incidental rather than accidental… but that’s just the way it is. That’s the rules we all play. It’s just good that he’s not suspended,” he said.
While the 31-year-old Ennis is certain to take the early guilty plea, the 95 carryover points means he now walks a tightrope for the rest of the finals series.
Ennis conceded it wasn’t an ideal situation, but said he was used to having a significant amount of points hanging over his head after being slapped with a contrary conduct charge for touching referee Ben Cummins in round 2.
“These days accidents get marked as grade-ones. We’ve just got to deal with that as players,” he said.
“I’m just fortunate that I’ve survived this one.”
Gallen was sporting some major bruising around his eye after an alleged first-half eye gouge from Rabbitohs five-eighth Luke Keary that attracted a grade-one charge from the match review committee.
His 40 carryover points mean he will miss a game next season unless he fights the penalty at the judiciary.
Gallen, who said he suffered from blurred vision for two or three minutes following the incident, also believed there was no intent from Keary.
However he did credit the playmaker for the ensuing trash-talk during the remainder of the match.
“I was actually laughing with one of their front-rowers about it,” he said.
“I said to his front-rower, `I like that kid. He’s got a lot of spunk about him.’
“He goes good. He’s a tough little bugger, doesn’t take a backward step.”