David Klemmer has enjoyed a successful visit to the NRL judiciary for the second time this year, after being found not guilty of making illegal contact with referee Ben Cummins.
The judiciary panel of Don McKinnon, Paul Whatuira and Bob Lindner deliberated for nine minutes on Wednesday night before handing down a not guilty verdict to the contrary conduct charge against Canterbury forward Klemmer stemming from Thursday’s win over Penrith.
The decision has further muddied the waters of the NRL’s crackdown on players making contact with referees.
Cummins seemingly broke ranks to give evidence in support of Klemmer that must have held significant sway with the panel.
“I didn’t notice him making contact with me at the time,” Cummins said.
The grand final whistleblower said he didn’t realise Klemmer had touched him until he was alerted to the charge laid by the match review committee at his review session the following day.
Cummins said he was attempting to prevent a possible escalation of a situation between Bulldogs forward Tim Browne and Panthers playmaker Jamie Soward, after penalising Browne, when Klemmer touched him.
Klemmer expressed his relief to waiting media post-verdict and said: “I have a great respect for the officials”.
Klemmer’s defence counsel Nick Ghabar described the contact as “momentary, light, innocuous and minimal”.
“It was minor contact at best,” he said.
“It would be almost ludicrous to suggest it wasn’t in the spirit of the game.
“It was an act of frivolity or foolishness. It wasn’t an aggressive or threatening act … that is a fact.
“Klemmer wanted to quell the situation. He was the peacemaker.”
In evidence, Ghabar pointed to audio in which Klemmer could be heard saying to Cummins: “we have a player down, sir”, in reference to five-eighth Josh Reynolds who was receiving treatment downfield.
Judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew stopped the hearing for five minutes at one stage and cleared the room as he queried the line of Ghabar’s questioning.
Judiciary prosecutor Peter McGrath described the contact as “avoidable”.
“It matters not that it wasn’t intimidating; it matters not that it wasn’t aggressive; it matters not the referee didn’t see it that way. You cannot touch the referee.”
However, the panel didn’t share his view.
Klemmer is free to play in the Dogs’ round-three clash with Parramatta on Friday night at ANZ Stadium.
The NSW enforcer also fronted the judiciary last month, when he was found not guilty of a “torpedo” tackle on Melbourne’s Kenny Bromwich.
Earlier on Wednesday night, North Queensland prop Matt Scott was found not guilty of a crusher tackle.