26 Jul 2017

Soliola gets five week ban

6:25 am on 26 July 2017

Canberra forward Sia Soliola has been suspended for five games for the dangerous contact that knocked Melbourne NRL fullback Billy Slater out cold.

Sia Soliola playing for Samoa.

Sia Soliola playing for Samoa. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Soliola's defence lawyer Nick Ghabar argued that the hit on Slater was careless and not reckless, and that the Raider deserved only a three-week ban given the Storm fullback was falling in the tackle.

But in a 100-minute hearing, NRL counsel Anthony Lo Surdo told the three-man panel that the hit was reckless and needed a six-week ban.

Soliola, a former Kiwi international, will be able to return for the Raiders' round-26 clash with Melbourne.

Ghabar also argued it "would've been very hard" to pull out of the tackle.

But Lo Surdo said the hit was reckless and that a message needed to be sent to players as to the dangerous nature of the contact which warranted a six-week ban.

He also presented a medical report from the Storm's doctor that said Slater couldn't remember his State of Origin III win minutes after the hit due to concussion.

Evidence from Melbourne's head medical official, Dr Jason Chan, claimed the Maroons fullback was "unconscious before he hit the ground".

"Billy knew he was in Canberra, but not that he was at GIO Stadium or why he was there," the report said.

"He had no recollection of previous two weeks. Not aware he had played State of Origin, or that he had injured his ankle that week."

The three-man panel of Bob Lindner, Shaun Garlick and Mal Cochrane took just five minutes to agree on the five-game ban.

The suspension marks Soliola's first in either the NRL or English Super League since his debut in 2005.

"Apologies to everyone who was effected by this - especially to Billy and his family," Soliola said after the hearing.

Referee escapes sanction

NRL referee Matt Cecchin has escaped sanction for failing to send Sia Soliola off after the hit on Billy Slater, because he was unsighted.

Matt Cecchin

Matt Cecchin Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Senior NRL review official Bernard Sutton and assistant on-field referee Chris Butler were both demoted, as Canberra forward Soliola was suspended for five games for the dangerous late and high tackle.

But Cecchin will officiate in Friday's NRL clash between the Warriors and Cronulla, as it's understood he was following his duties as lead referee in watching the ball as it was passed across the field.

"The officials who were ultimately responsible for the decision, given it occurred in backplay, were the senior review official and the assist referee," Archer said.

"As a result, Bernie Sutton will not be a senior review official in round 21, and Chris Butler will officiate in Queensland Cup.

"It is my expectation that the assist referee firstly identifies incidents in backplay, while the senior review official should have taken stronger action due to the serious nature of this incident."

As a result, Sutton will drop back to the role of regular bunker reviewer, and will have all his major decisions overseen by senior official Luke Patten.

Regular review from Saturday night official Bryan Norrie has also escaped punishment. He'll work with Cecchin in Friday night's clash from the bunker.

Cecchin is considered one of the NRL's most senior referees, having officiated in this year's State of Origin series and the 2016 grand final.

Archer was particularly critical of the decision not to send Soliola off after the dangerous tackle, which floored Slater and ruled him out for this week's clash with Manly.

The former on-field referee released a statement after the game, declaring it had met the indicators required for a send-off.