Gold Coast have defended Ryan James as the Titans forward prepares to front the NRL judiciary and risk a one-match ban over the tackle that broke James Tedesco’s jaw.
James is pleading not guilty to a grade-two careless high tackle charge over his hit on Tedesco after the Tigers fullback fielded a bomb during the Titans’ 19-18 win on Saturday.
Tedesco will undergo surgery on his jaw on Wednesday, and he’s expected to have played his last game of 2016.
James will cop a one-match ban if found guilty of the charge, and he would have been hit with the same penalty if he’d taken an early guilty plea.
Wests Tigers are incensed over the injury to their most important player and the relative leniency of the possible punishment.
But Titans teammate Zeb Taia has defended James: “As a player he is really aggressive but I don’t think there was any malice in the tackle he did against Tedesco.
“Obviously when you see Tedesco is catching it and falling down, if he didn’t break his jaw it might have been a different story.”
Taia appeared to lay some of the blame of the injury on Tedesco’s catching technique.
“That is one thing we pride ourselves on, kick chasing. When bombs go up we have had a lot of fullbacks dropping bombs with us,” he told reporters on the Gold Coast.
“Obviously he had done a lot of study on us pressuring. He caught that one and went down real quick and just got hit on the way down.”
Match review committee chairman Michael Buettner told the NRL’s official website the game was eager to protect players when they were catching the ball.
“It is important we protect our players in these positions,” Buettner said.
“The catchers are in a vulnerable position. The ball is up high, they are in a very vulnerable situation if contact is made.
“Given the position they are in forceful contact needs to be avoided.”