Buzz: Slater cleared in NRL’s no-win scenario
BILLY Slater saved the best sidestep of his career for the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night to get his clearance to play in Sunday's grand final.
The superstar fullback is free to play against the Roosters after convincing the panel he had no way to avoid the contact with Sharks winger Sosia Feki in such a high speed collision.
The panel took an agonising 54 minute deliberation - one of the longest in NRL history - to reach its verdict. It was that close. When they found Latrell Mitchell guilty two weeks ago it took only 12 minutes.
Twice a desperate Slater got out of his seat and stood to demonstrate his actions and tell the story of his video research before the game that may have contributed to the shoulder contact.
And told how it was his hip and his left pec that connected with the Sharks winger before his shoulder.
"I watched every try of both their wingers throughout the in the build up to the game," Slater said, "I noticed Feki had scored eight tries by pinging for the corner. I knew he liked to back himself.
"I realised Sosaia was 10 metres from corner post. My intention was to make a ball and all tackle.
"I'm intending to get my body in front of Feki between the try-line.
"But he stepped of his left foot and I'm running at 33kph and I've got two metres to make a decision.
"His right elbow comes up and I turned my head to avoid contact.
"Once he veered across it was inevitable we were going to make contact.
"I made sure I kept it as low as I could so it was a safe tackle."
Judiciary boss instructed his panel to ignore the emotion of the case.
"You must not take into account that it's a grand final this weekend - it's an irrelevant consideration," he said.
This sure was a pressure cooker hearing.
And Slater was never going to be late. Unlike the old days when players used to turn up at Phillip St headquarters in a taxi, Billy and his entourage arrived at Mascot in a sponsor's 10-seat private jet.
They wanted to be sure of making it home to Melbourne on Tuesday night for training on Wednesday morning.
They arrived to the news Sean Garlick, Bob Lindner and Mal Cochrane were the former players on the panel who would decide his fate.
Former Storm team mate and regular panellist Dallas Johnson stood aside.
Craig Bellamy was at his first judiciary hearing for 16 years. He sat nervously next to his champion fullback, looking nothing like the hyped up coach behind the window of his box each week.
CEO Dave Donaghy and general manager Frank Ponissi grabbed the front-row seats.
Every newspaper, TV network, radio station and sporting website in town was there.
In the old days you'd have to buy the paper the next morning to get a verdict.
On Tuesday night you get it within seconds on social media.
This was your columnist's first judiciary appearance since Manly Sea Eagles star Glenn Stewart copped three weeks for his infamous sideline stink with Adam Blair at Brookvale Oval in 2011.
The night that cost Manly's head of communications Peter Zorba Peters his job when he called Sky News reporter Megan Barnard 'a good sort' as she chased Stewart to the carpark for a TV grab.
He was sacked the following week. The media contingent was much, much bigger on Tuesday night.
For the NRL it was always going to be a no-win scenario.
If he was suspended there would be outrage because Waqa Blake and Kalyn Ponga got away with identical shoulder collisions during the season. They weren't even charged, let alone suspended.
If he got off it was only because he was Billy Slater. He escaped because he was a champion of the game, it was a grand final and the last game of a magnificent career.
No one is ever happy with the NRL on these big off-field issues.
Mitchell Pearce was a total over-reaction with a $125,000 fine and an eight-game suspension for being an absolute idiot with a dog in a private home. Same with silly Todd Carney with the bubbler photo. He got sacked and rubbed out of the game.
Yet Sam Burgess gets off for his sexting scandal and the punters ask where is the consistency?
Again fans on talk-back radio and internet chat rooms will be in meltdown on Wednesday over the verdict.
Although this is one the game got right. Billy Slater deserves to play.