Wade Graham will miss State of Origin II, after being handed a one-match ban for a high tackle on Johnathan Thurston at the NRL judiciary.
The judiciary panel of Bob Lindner, Don McKinnon and Sean Garlick took 12 minutes to deliberate on Wednesday night before handing down its verdict.
Graham had been selected to make his Origin debut in game two in Brisbane next Wednesday as a replacement for the injured Boyd Cordner. He will sit out the clash due to the second-half tackle on Queensland playmaker Thurston in Cronulla’s Monday night win over North Queensland.
St George Illawarra back-rower Tyson Frizell will take Graham’s spot in the Blues’ side for Origin II in his interstate debut.
“Obviously, I am very disappointed I miss out on the game. There’s not really words to describe how disappointing it is,” Graham said.
“But we went in there and put in a good argument. It was a fair case – unfortunately, the decision didn’t go my way tonight.
“It is important for me to move on and head back to Cronulla and, hopefully, have my name in the ring for Origin III.
Giving evidence in the hearing that went for just over an hour, Graham said he couldn’t have prevented himself hitting Thurston in the way he did.
“The contact was avoidable. If I could have avoided it, I would have,” he said.
“I just tried to get up and make a normal tackle, to get low and get my shoulder under the ball. It gets wet late in the game at Cronulla and I tried to force an error.
“But he ducked right in front of me. It was too late to adjust. It was too quick.”
Judiciary prosecutor Peter McGrath argued Graham did not show enough care towards Thurston in making the tackle.
“You have followed him and effectively flung yourself towards him,” he said.
“The tackle was careless; there was unnecessary and forceful contact to the player Thurston.”
Graham’s defence counsel Nick Ghabar argued the tackle “was a grabbing type of motion”.
“Unfortunately, there was contact, but it was of a very low force and it was unavoidable.
“Graham was in the motion of making the tackle, when player Thurston slipped and player Graham had less than a second to react.”
However, McGrath successfully countered: “Of course it was avoidable. It was avoidable with care. It wasn’t an accident.”
Graham will next be available for Cronulla’s round-16 fixture on Saturday week against the Warriors.