Bulldogs forward Corey Waddell has been hit with a five-match ban at the judiciary after being found guilty of dangerous contact amid accusations of eye-gouging.
The incident in question occurred during their clash at the weekend, when Gold Coast Titans captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui claimed he’d been eye-gouged by Waddell in a tackle attempt by the Bulldog.
Waddell initially pleaded not guilty to the charges — arguing that contact with Fa’asuamaleaui’s eyes was purely incidental — in what was at times a tense judiciary hearing.
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However, NRL prosecutor Patrick Knowles’ recommendation of a five-match ban was upheld by the judiciary, with Knowles urging the league to be “vigilant” against such actions.
“Contact between players’ fingers and the eye socket of another player is very dangerous and something the NRL must be vigilant to protect players from,” he said.
“You should place a penalty on player Waddell of at least five matches. I understand it is a lengthy penalty but player Waddell is not only guilty to reckless contact but you obviously take into account his lack of contrition.
“Player Waddell has not confronted the seriousness of the offence he committed.”
Waddell was deemed to have acted “recklessly” and was not helped by his past judiciary record.
Knowles and Waddell clashed on a number of occasions during the hearing, with the prosecutor baffled by the player’s explanation for his actions.
“Is this seriously your evidence? You were using your hips and your right hand to put pressure on the player but you were exerting no pressure with your left hand?” Knowles asked the Bulldogs forward at one point.
Waddell objected to Knowles’ questioning, explaining how a tackling position known as the “seatbelt” was to blame for the inadvertent contact to his opponent’s eyes. Waddell’s legal counsel, Nick Ghabar, argued for a ban of no more than two matches.
“I try and straighten the ball carrier so he gives up his base and loses control,” he told the judiciary.
“I put my hand over Max’s head and I found my hand on Tino’s forehead. I didn’t apply any pressure to his face at all and then I tried to push my hips into his hips to push him back.
“With my right hand I tried to grab his jersey and shoulder. My purpose was to get him onto his back with my teammates falling on top of him.
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“As I went over Max’s head, I grabbed Tino’s forehead. At no stage do I apply any unnecessary or careless pressure to his face.
“As you can see, as he starts to fall to the ground I release my hand. And then he grabbed my hand as he fell to the ground. At no stage were my fingers in or around his eyes.”
The suspension means Waddell will be sidelined until the final round of the home and away season.
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