A relieved Justin Hodges is free to play in the grand final after beating a dangerous throw charge at the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night.
The Brisbane skipper successfully challenged his one-match ban for a tackle on Aidan Guerra in last week’s preliminary final win over Sydney Roosters.
After a hearing that lasted 76 minutes, the judiciary panel of Royce Ayliffe, Chris McKenna and Bronson Harrison deliberated for 10 minutes before delivering the not guilty verdict.
Hodges now has the chance to earn a fairytale end to his career in Sunday’s premiership decider at ANZ Stadium against North Queensland. It will be the 33-year-old’s final game of rugby league before he retires.
“I have so many emotions going right now, the last few days have been tough and today felt like the longest day,” Hodges told media at Rugby League Central shortly after the verdict was read out.
“I just want to thank everyone here for giving me a fair trial, we have a system in place when you make a bad decision in rugby league, you have the chance to come here and state your case.
“I’m just relieved I get to play one more game.”
Guerra gave evidence on behalf of Hodges. The Sydney Roosters back-rower and Hodges’ Queensland teammate claimed he had no concern for his own welfare and was playing for a penalty at a crucial stage of the second half when he jumped in the tackle.
“It’s clear what I was aiming to get out of it and that was a penalty,” Guerra said.
“The game wasn’t going to plan for us and we were trying to do anything we could.
“I thought it was a chance to get a penalty so I jumped above the horizontal to get a penalty.”
Judiciary prosecutor Peter McGrath questioned Guerra’s testimony saying it amounted to him “embarking upon the course of action to hurl himself head-first into the Suncorp Stadium turf.”
McGrath asked: “Did it worry you?”
“Well I’m still able bodied,” Guerra replied.
“Probably not the smartest decision.”
Judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew stopped Guerra’s evidence to ask the Queensland State of Origin representative to clarify what he was saying on a number of occasions.
In giving his own evidence about the tackle which also involved halfback Ben Hunt, Hodges said: “I was just trying to hold him and stop his momentum.
“I felt him jump, I could feel him going down and I let go.”
After being repeatedly asked, Hodges said the tackle did end in a dangerous position but claimed he did not contribute to it.
Hodges’ defence counsel Nick Ghabar said that was primarily Guerra’s fault.
“Without player Guerra’s contribution there is no way that he could have got into a dangerous position,” he said.
The start of the hearing was delayed by 44 minutes because McKenna’s, a former Maroons teammate of Hodges, plane from Brisbane was delayed.