Cronulla forward Andrew Fifita successfully argued against a four-game suspension at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night with the three-man panel reducing his grade-three dangerous throw charge.
Fifita, who was facing a six-game ban had he failed in his appeal, will only miss two matches after having his penalty cut to a grade-two offence.
The prop made a passionate defence of his actions in a challenge in which Newcastle hooker Adam Clydesdale was lifted above the horizontal and onto his back.
The NSW representative disputed claims made by the NRL’s counsel Peter McGrath that he deliberately attempted to drive his opponent into the ground and didn’t try to pull out of the tackle last Friday at Remondis Stadium.
Fifita admitted the tackle went wrong but said he did everything possible to reduce the chance of serious injury to Clydesdale, who came back on the field to finish the game.
“When I started lifting, I felt the momentum change. I knew I had to do something, otherwise it would go terribly wrong,” Fifita said.
“I cradled his neck and got him straight on his back as we came down … it was all very fast … I am 120kg and he is about 84kg.
“There was no concussion – he came back on. I knew I had a duty of care towards him.”
The panel of Mal Cochrane, Sean Garlick and Chris McKenna took just three minutes to find in favour following a 70-minute hearing.
Fifita will miss Cronulla’s next two matches against South Sydney and Penrith.
However, he will be available for selection for the Kangaroos’ side for the Test against New Zealand on May 1 or the City Origin side for the clash with Country two days later in Wagga Wagga.
Fifita admitted it was a big risk to fight the grading but maintained it was one worth taking as he would have been on the sidelines for 10 weeks.
“A grade three is quite significant, it was a big gamble but it would have six weeks on the sidelines … plus two byes and a rep weekend,” Fifita said.
“I am stoked at the outcome. You could see on the video I was trying to get him into a comfortable position which is what I did.”
The news wasn’t so good for St George Illawarra’s Tyson Frizell who will sit out two matches after efforts to win a downgrade for a grade-five careless tackle were thrown out following a marathon hearing that lasted almost 80 minutes.
Frizell had already pleaded guilty over the incident that knocked out Canterbury’s Tim Browne, but was seeking to get the charge reduced so he would only miss one match.
The 23-year-old will be on the sidelines for Friday’s clash with Brisbane at Kogarah and the Anzac Day encounter with the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium.