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Holmes, de Belin to miss four matches

A recap of coverage for Cowboys centre Valentine Holmes and Dragons forward Jack de Belin after both were unsuccessful in seeking downgrades for charges stemming from Round 22.

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8.40pm: Valentine Holmes has been UNSUCCESSFUL in his bid for a downgrade - he will miss four matches in a huge blow for the Cowboys and their charge towards the finals. Holmes will miss the remainder of the regular season. 

NRL Judiciary chair, Justice Geoffrey Bellew SC, released the following summary of reasons for the decision of the judiciary panel.

The decision of the panel was unanimous and accordingly the casting vote of the Chairperson under rule 89 was not required.

In reaching its determination, and consistent with the manner in which the respective cases were conducted, the panel considered two principal factors, namely:

  • 1. the level of force applied in the tackle; and
  • 2. the risk of injury posed to the opposing player.

As far as the first of those issues was concerned, the panel considered that the level of force was moderate.

In reaching that view, the panel took into account that the force was applied at speed, to the point where the player’s feet were in the air at the point of contact. In this regard, the panel also considered it relevant that the player made no attempt to lower his point of contact, in circumstances where he had ample opportunity to
do so.

As far as the second issue was concerned, the panel took the view that as
a consequence of the matters referred to above, the risk of injury was
equally moderate as opposed to low, notwithstanding the fact that no
injury actually occurred.

Further, and in respect of a submission advanced on behalf of the player,
the panel did not consider that the attacking player had lowered his body to any, or any appreciable, degree.

The panel were fortified in that conclusion by the fact that player Holmes was in the air at the point of contact.

Finally, the panel found that there was no significant distinction between the tackle relied upon by the player for comparable purposes and the incident under consideration, be it in terms of the level of force or the risk of injury.

For these reasons, the panel concluded that the appropriate grading was a
Grade 2.

8.25pm: The panel has begun deliberation with a verdict to come shortly.

8.15pm: O'Toole is giving his final submissions on behalf of Holmes.

“It is my submission that the contact between my client and Jayden Campbell should be low force, rather than moderate. My client did not intend to make contact with the head or neck of Jayden Campbell and would not have if Jayden Campbell didn’t lower his body height as he received the ball from Tanah Boyd and prepared to pass to Jojo Fifita.”

8.10pm: O’Toole said there was no injury as a result of the contact by Holmes on Campbell and said there was less force than in the tackle by Sivo on Titans winger Jojo Fifita which was deemed a lower grade offence.

8.00pm: O’Toole has asked to show footage of a Grade 2 Careless High Tackle charge against Eels winger Maika Sivo in Round 20 to compare with the charge against Holmes.

Holmes sent to the sin bin

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Gyles responded: “It is a very similar tackle, it is a winger coming in to shut down an opposition player. It is a similar level of force. It would be desirable for consistency if the tackle we are considering tonight was the adjudged the same as that tackle.”

7.55pm: The panel of chairman Justice Geoff Bellew, Paul Simpkins and Tony Puletua have been shown footage of the Holmes tackle on Titans fullback Jayden Campbell.

“The player failed to show the necessary duty of care, he did not lower his body height before making contact and the level of force is consistent with a Grade 2 charge,” Gyles said.

7.45pm: O’Toole said Holmes does not wish to give evidence in his defense but will make submissions about the video. Justice Bellew warned that if those submissions verged on evidence then Holmes could be cross-examined by NRL
legal counsel Lachlan Gyles SC.

7.40pm: The hearing began with Holmes' legal representative Bill O’Toole seeking to have a memo from NRL head of football Graham Annesley entitled ‘Player safety update high tackles and shoulder charges’ removed from evidence.

"The memo is not addressed by my client and my client had not seen this memo until today," O'Toole said.

7.30pm: The Valentine Holmes hearing is about to get underway. Holmes is appearing via video link from Townsville with Cowboys coach Todd Payten and head of football Micheal Luck. A successful appeal for a Grade 2 Careless High Tackle to be downgraded will see Holmes receive a fine of $3,000.

If unsuccessful, Holmes will miss the remainder of the regular season due to a bye in Round 24.

Earlier, Dragons forward Jack de Belin said he was "bitterly disappointed" after receiving a four-match ban for a Grade 2 dangerous contact charge at Tuesday night's NRL judiciary hearing.

De Belin pleaded guilty but was seeking a downgrade to a Grade 1 offence, which would have reduced his penalty to a fine.

He is now suspended until St George Illawarra's last match of the season against Newcastle. 

"I’m bitterly disappointed,” de Belin said. “I think we showed that it probably should have been a Grade 1, but I respect the judiciary’s decision. That’s life and you’ve got to play the cards you’ve been dealt.

Dragons forward Jack de Belin was unsuccessful at the NRL Judiciary on Tuesday night.
Dragons forward Jack de Belin was unsuccessful at the NRL Judiciary on Tuesday night. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"If you watch it, I don’t actively or consciously do a hip-drop. It’s kind of one motion and unfortunately, I ended up around his boot.

"There were mitigating factors, but as football players I know we have a responsibility and a duty of care. I don’t necessarily agree that there was a high level of force.”

The decision of the panel was unanimous and accordingly the casting vote of the Chairperson under 89 was not required.

In light of the manner in which the respective cases were conducted, the three principal issues considered by the Panel in terms of grading were:

  • 1. The level of contribution of any other player(s);
  • 2. The degree of force; and
  • 3. The risk of injury.

Whilst there were differing observations made regarding the first of those matters, the Panel were comfortably satisfied that the level of force was moderate, and that it had been exerted in a downward motion towards the ball carrier’s knee.

Further, and whilst conscious of thE need not to apply any form of hindsight reasoning, the panel took the view that the risk of injury was significant, as demonstrated by the fact that there was evidence that an injury was actually occasioned to the ball carrier.

In other words, the risking this case actually materialised. The panel concluded that these two factors alone justified the grading of 2.

De Belin sent to the bin

Judiciary recap - Jack de Belin

7.05pm: Jack de Belin has failed in his bid to have his Dangerous Contact charge downgraded from a Grade 2 to a Grade 1 and will miss the Dragons' next four matches. He will be available again for the Round 27 match against the Knights.

6.50pm: The Jack de Belin hearing has adjourned while Paul Simpkins and
Tony Puletua deliberate to determine whether de Belin is guilty of a grade one or grade two offence.

6.35pm: Gyles said the panel had to consider whether the level of force applied to player Tuipulotu’s leg or foot was higher because of the involvement of player Molo. He pointed out that de Belin had pleaded guilty to dangerous contact and in doing so acknowledged that there was a high level of risk of injury.

6.30pm: Manly doctor Paul Bloomfield provided a medical report in which he estimated Tuipulotu would be sidelined for a minimum of two weeks. Ghabar said Tuipulotu had his right leg heavily strapped and may have contributed to the injury to his left knee.

Ghabar said the incident was completely missed by the referee in the run of play and was only detected by The Bunker during a stoppage in play.

“If this was contact that was so bad it deserves a grade two surely it would have been picked up by the referee,” he said. “In my submission, this tackle would be appropriately graded as a Grade 1.”

6.25pm: Ghabar said the involvement of Dragons team-mate Francis Molo had been a contributing factor as he had pushed de Belin down. Ghabar admitted de Belin’s buttocks had contacted the back of player Tuipolutu’s ankle but said the incident wasn’t a standard hip drop.

“This is not in the nature of what is commonly known as a hip drop, this is all one fluid motion,” Ghabar said.

“I would suggest it was momentary contact and in terms of force I would say it was low level. It was somewhat clumsy and a marginal level of carelessness. Player de Belin lost his legs and was pushed by player Molo.”

6.20pm: The panel watched a variety of camera angles of the tackle by de Belin on Tuipulotu. The Manly winger suffered an MCL injury and NRL legal counsel Lachlan Gyles told the hearing that the level of force in the tackle was what they had to determine.

“Is it an entry level of force or something stronger?” Gyles said. “What you have seen really sets out that it is a moderate level of force, the injury to the other player is consistent with a moderate level of force.

“The player was injured, forced from the field and is likely to be out for two weeks. That is really what we are trying to avoid.

“It’s not about Mr de Belin’s character, it’s not about whether he set out to do it deliberately, it’s about the level of force.”

6.10pm: Jack de Belin's hearing has begun before Justice Greg Bellew, Paul Simpkins and Tony Puletua. The Dragons forward is represented by Nick Ghabar.

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.