South Sydney’s Issac Luke and Manly star Jorge Taufua have been found not guilty of shoulder charges at the NRL judiciary.
Luke had faced a grade-one shoulder charge count for his hit on Johnathan Thurston in the Rabbitohs’ big win over North Queensland last week in Townsville.
But the panel of Don McKinnon, Bob Lindner and Mal Cochrane took 12 minutes to find Luke not guilty of the charge. The same panel took just three minutes to find Taufua not guilty of an alleged shoulder charge on Jack Wighton in Manly’s win on Sunday over Canberra.
“It’s a big relief for me,” Luke told waiting media shortly after the verdict.
In giving evidence, Luke said it wasn’t his intent to put a big hit on Thurston.
“I was just coming out of the defensive line to put pressure on JT,” Luke said. “I was trying to avoid contact. I stopped and he ran into me. I didn’t shoulder charge.”
Luke’s defence counsel Nick Ghabar argued there was separation between Luke’s arm and his torso, which wouldn’t constitute a shoulder charge, and contact was with his client’s forearm and torso rather than the shoulder.
“It was essentially a collision,” Ghabar said. “(Luke) used his forearm as a bumper. “It wasn’t careless, but quite careful.”
Judiciary counsel Peter McGrath said the tackle was an obvious shoulder charge.
“Player Luke made no attempt to use both arms, including his hands in the tackle on player Thurston,” McGrath said.
But that was rejected. Luke, however, won’t play on Friday night against Canterbury after accepting a one-game ban for a dangerous throw, also against the Cowboys.
Taufua is free to play for Manly in Sunday’s clash with Parramatta.
In a significant test of the NRL’s crackdown on the shoulder charge, Sydney Roosters star Aidan Guerra will also front the judiciary on Wednesday night to challenge a potential ban over the controversial tackle.