Ha… Too bad. I still feel that Ennis should have been suspended though…
Raiders fullback Jack Wighton faces a season-ending ban for his shoulder charge on Tigers back-rower Joel Edwards after the NRL sensationally charged him with a grade two offence on Monday.
The blow to Canberra’s finals campaign comes after the match review panel cleared Bulldogs forward David Klemmer and Sharks’ hooker Michael Ennis of wrongdoing in similar incidents which hinted at shoulder charges over the weekend.
The Raiders will host the Sharks in the first week of finals next weekend after they thrashed a woeful Tigers outfit 52-10 at Leichhardt Oval.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said he was not concerned Wighton would be suspended after the smashing the Tigers 52-10 on Sunday given Ennis had been cleared hours early, adding a commonsense approach was needed by the judiciary.
But the NRL took the unprecedented step of providing a detailed explanation why Wighton was facing a four-week ban on the eve of the finals and the saga threatens to shatter his premiership dreams.
If Wighton accepts an early guilty plea he will miss three games - potentially the rest of the season if the Raiders beat the Sharks in a qualifying final at GIO Stadium on Saturday. The 23-year-old will miss four games if he fights the charge at the judiciary and loses.
The Raiders will likely turn to two-game rookie Zac Santo to step up in Wighton’s absence.
The NRL said Wighton’s effort on a runaway Edwards could not be compared to Ennis’ tackle on Melbourne five-eighth Blake Green given the retiring rake had his left arm away from his body.
“We look for three key indicators when determining whether a shoulder charge has been made,” match review committee boss Michael Buettner said.
"They are: the upper arm of the defender must be tucked in to his side at contact, the defender is making no attempt to wrap in the tackle with both arms [and] there is forceful contact by the defender to any part of the body of the attacking player.
"If all three of these indicators are clearly identified in an incident then a player will be charged with a shoulder charge.
"In the case of Michael Ennis, it’s very clear that the left arm of Ennis is away from his body and not tucked into his side. So no charge was laid.
“In the Wighton incident the MRC was satisfied that all three indicators were present and so a charge has been laid.”
Wighton attracted loading for two prior offences in the last two years meaning the base penalty was increased from 350 points to 490. That will be scaled back to a three-game ban if the Raiders accept an early guilty plea.
Such a scenario would be unlikely though given the Raiders will have nothing to lose fighting the charge as Stuart’s side emerge as legitimate premiership contenders on the back of 10 straight wins.
The Raiders were confident on Sunday that Wighton would avoid punishment and captain Jarrod Croker said referee Jared Maxwell agreed the incident looked worse because both players were running at high speed.
Santo has played just one game this year when Wighton was suspended for touching a referee.
Before Wighton was charged by the judiciary, Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson said: “It would be a shame to see him miss, he’s a fantastic player and has been immense for us. He’s a massive part of our team.”
Wighton felt his head made contact with Edwards rather than his shoulder.
Joey Leilua said: “I didn’t think there was too much in it at the time. If someone that big is going to run at you … it’s a contact sport and I don’t think there was much in it.”