BEHIND THE SPORTS DESK: Slater-gate divides league lovers
RUGBY LEAGUE: IN one of the most divisive and high-profile NRL judiciary hearings in history, Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater was controversially let off a grade one shoulder charge.
After making contact with Sharks winger Sosaia Feki in last week's preliminary final, Slater was charged by the match review committee and expected to miss this week's grand final, his last career game.
But after a three hour judiciary hearing on Tuesday night, Slater was found not guilty and allowed to take his place at the back for the Storm.
But was it the right decision?
'MOOSE' ELKERTON: Don't hate the player, hate the process
IT MIGHT have opened up a bit of a Pandora's box for the NRL hierarchy, but the judiciary had no choice but to acquit Billy Slater this week.
Melbourne hired the best sports lawyer in the game in Nick Ghabar, who across a drawn-out three-hour hearing, hit the panel from more angles than Floyd Mayweather.
Ghabar and Slater tore apart the shoulder charge rule, which in its essence doesn't cover the full scope of what could constitute a shoulder charge. The rule is vague at best, and unnecessary.
When the law was introduced, it was never a try-saving effort like Slater's considered the real issue. It was more the front-on assault that would regularly land the attacker and defender in the trauma ward that was under fire.
The types of tackles that saw Shaun Timmins stretchered off the field after being blindsided by Greg Inglis.
If I was a junior coach and I saw my fullback run the width of the field to knock the opposing winger in to touch before he could score a try, I would celebrate that player, not force him off the field.
I know that rules are rules, and this does set an awkward precedent especially for those nasty incidents. But at the end of the day the judiciary panel, made up of unbiased third-party personnel, have made the right decision.
The biggest shame for the Storm will be a potential back-to-back premiership win, the first in more than two decades, will always be overshadowed by the Slater decision.
JARRARD 'POTTSY' POTTER: Slater decision makes farce of the game
THE decision by the NRL judiciary to let Billy Slater off scot-free for his shoulder charge is a disgrace to the sport and its rules, and will cast a long shadow over this year's grand final.
As far as I'm concerned, the shoulder charge rule as it stands is no longer in effect, as the defence put forward by Slater's legal team sets a precedent that means any player from here on charged with a shoulder charge can argue that they intended to use their arms, but (in a great act of victim blaming) the person with the ball did something that forced a shoulder charge from the defender.
The onus is always on the defender to abide by the rules of the game, and the rules of the game clearly state that a player must not make a forceful contact with their shoulder without attempting to use their arms.
Slater did not use his arms, and made a forceful contact with Feki. It was a shoulder charge, and Slater should not be playing the grand final.
I really hope the judiciary did not take into account Slater's champion status in the game and the fact that it was a grand final, because if they did it means there's one set of rules for the regular season and for regular players, and another set of rules for champion players in the finals.
The decision was an absolute farce, and makes a joke out of the NRL and it's so-called attempt at making the game safer for players by wiping out the shoulder charge.