Canterbury’s top four hopes have nose-dived after Sam Kasiano pleaded guilty to kicking Corey Parker in the head, rubbing him out of his side’s run to the NRL finals.
Kasiano will miss the final two regular rounds after accepting an early guilty plea to a grade two dangerous contact charge on Monday.
The club could have challenged the charge, but it was not willing to risk the New Zealand and Samoan Test international missing three weeks.
With the Bulldogs fighting to hold onto fourth spot and their big men facing a test of their mettle against a North Queensland pack brimming with international experience, Kasiano’s couldn’t have come at a worse time.
They go into Thursday’s monster clash at Belmore Sports Ground in fourth but could drop as low as sixth on the ladder if they go down to the premiers.
Kasiano has been one of their leading contributors this season, scoring six tries as well as making six line breaks, 21 tackle busts and 30 offloads and has often changed the complexion of the game when coming off the bench.
His size and impact will be sorely missed against a Cowboys pack which out-gunned the Bulldogs in a 36-0 thumping five weeks ago.
That night the Cowboys, who have led the competition for metres made this year, ran for 1726m while Des Hasler’s side could only manage 997m.
“He’s been really good for us so we’ll have to step up without him,” Bulldogs back-rower Josh Jackson said of Kasiano.
“He provides a lot of impact for us, a lot of times this year he’s changed the game for us. We’ve been without momentum and flat and he’s come on and changed the whole game for us.
“He’s pretty important to what we do but in saying that we’ve got big T-Rex (Tony Williams) who sits there on the bench who does the same job for us, Danny Fualalo, Tim Browne, guys like that can do that job as well.”
Meanwhile, St George Illawarra centre Taane Milne faces up to two matches on the sideline after being charged with a grade-one dangerous throw.
While Milne would normally be able to escape a ban with an early guilty plea, two prior offences, including one similar charge, have him carrying significant loading.
It means his tackle on Sydney Roosters back-rower Boyd Cordner in the Dragons’ 36-point loss on Sunday will have him suspended for one match if he accepts the early plea, or two if he challenges the charge at the judiciary and loses.
Parramatta’s Bevan French and Rory O’Brien were also charged for separate incidents in Sunday’s 10-point loss to Canberra, however both can escape suspension with an early guilty plea.