George Burgess won’t play again this season until the preliminary finals, if South Sydney qualify, after the NRL judiciary upheld his two-match ban for contrary conduct on Wednesday night.
The judiciary panel of Royce Ayliffe, Bob Lindner and Mal Cochrane deliberated for 31 minutes before finding against the England forward after he had pleaded guilty to a grade two contrary conduct charge but sought a downgrade.
Burgess will now miss Souths’ elimination final against Cronulla on Sunday and a semi-final a week later if the Rabbitohs progress that far in their premiership defence.
Burgess was charged with the offence after he threw a plastic water bottle from outside the field of play at Sydney Roosters prop Kane Evans during the Tricolours’ 30-0 win on Friday.
“It was a silly act, I reacted to what I saw, I don’t condone what I did, I just have to move forward now,” Burgess told waiting media after the verdict was read out.
“Hopefully as an NRL community we can start getting on with the finals now and look forward to some exciting games.
“Any kids out there watching can learn from my mistakes, I certainly have done.”
The incident was sparked when Souths’ utility Paul Carter threw the ball at Tricolours back-rower Aidan Guerra, after the Roosters star was penalised for slowing the play-the-ball.
As he then left the field to be replaced, Evans picked up the ball and threw it at Carter. Burgess responded by throwing the plastic bottle at Evans’ legs and missed.
Judiciary counsel Peter McGrath described the bottle that Burgess threw with “some force” as a “missile” and said it was only through the prop’s bad aim that it didn’t hit Evans.
McGrath said that throwing something from outside the field of play was provocative and “invited an escalation of the incident”.
In response Burgess’s defence counsel Nick Ghabar said that with his guilty plea Burgess accepted the act was “silly” and “not a good look”. But Ghabar also described it as “trivial” and only worthy of a base penalty.
Ghabar said Burgess’s actions were “pseudo comparable” to Evans’ act of throwing the Steeden and deserved the same grade one contrary conduct charge.
However Evans’ actions were “reprehensible”, “provocative, unnecessary and unsportsmanlike” and “intended to incite a response,” Ghabar said.
The decision is a further blow to the Rabbitohs’ hopes of defending their NRL title.
Burgess will join the suspended Issac Luke and the injured John Sutton on the sidelines for the clash with the Sharks.
The Rabbitohs have lost three matches straight and have conceded 109 points over that period.