CRONULLA coach Ricky Stuart played an extraordinary role before last night’s NRL judiciary hearing, re-enacting the suspect tackle made by Paul Gallen and claiming his repeat offender was “playing on eggshells and broken glass”. And the coach’s starring role worked.
Gallen was found not guilty by the panel, leaving him free to play for the Sharks in Saturday’s match against the Roosters.
Earlier, the judiciary also cleared Bulldog Michael Ennis, ruling that his alleged chicken-wing tackle on Canberra fullback Josh Dugan was tender enough to escape a one-match ban.
The dual “not guilty” findings were both achieved by counsel Geoff Bellew, who created enough doubt in the minds of the judiciary panel of Mal Cochrane, Sean Garlick and Mark Coyne to hand down the surprise findings.
Gallen claimed he didn’t hit Wing with his shoulder or arm, instead saying he hit Wing with his chest. Wing was concussed and missed a large portion of the game. “It was the pec [pectoral muscle] that hit him,” Gallen said.
The Sharks lock claimed the tackle was “a good tackle” and denied that his upper arm or shoulder hit Wing on the jaw.
Stuart then acted out the tackle with Gallen in the middle of the room and passionately defended his player.
Stuart spoke about Gallen “playing on eggshells and broken glass” because of his bad record and noted that, while the tackle looked poor, his player made no reaction to suggest he may be “stuffed”.
Afterwards, Gallen said he was satisfied with the result – but when asked about Stuart’s unprecedented demonstration, said: “I don’t know if it helped me, the character thing wasn’t the best”.
Earlier in the day, at a NSW State of Origin squad gathering, Gallen had admitted he might have to tone down his aggressive style after the Sharks threatened to fine him over his latest brush with the judiciary.
“It shocked me a little bit,” Gallen said when asked about the prospect of being fined by his club. “If I have to tone things down in order not to get fined, maybe that has to happen.”
Gallen will now have the chance to press for an Australian Test jersey, with selectors to name the team on Sunday for the Anzac Test on Friday week.
Meanwhile, Ennis will now take part in this Sunday’s clash against Wests Tigers, installing the Bulldogs as favourites – and setting up a head-to-head clash with Blues State of Origin rival Robbie Farah.
Ennis argued that he had been trying to remove the “forceful” pressure applied on his throat by the ball carrier, that he had tackled Dugan without significant force and that the arm had never been extended beyond his back.
“I am very grateful for the hearing … my representation was really good and I am very pleased with the result,” Ennis said. “This is another week, there are a few to go yet and it is important to get the preparation right and important to get back to training”.
When asked about the importance of clearing his name of being associated with the chicken-wing slur, Ennis replied: “I would rather scrub the chicken wing [talk]. I will talk about the tackle.”
Ennis said he had tackled Dugan to shift him onto his back, but also to remove Dugan’s hand, which was against his throat.
“I moved his arm to get it out of my throat,” Ennis told the judiciary. “The degree of force applied was not a great deal.”
Ennis told the judiciary he had never used wrestling techniques and nor did the Bulldogs coaching staff teach any wrestling techniques.
Bulldogs coach Kevin Moore, who was at the hearing, said after the decision was handed down that he was happy with the result. “I didn’t think there was too much in it,” he said.
Moore said the Bulldogs team had spent the past few days in recovery because the next match was on Sunday.
“Because of that, we haven’t had to move players around, so it hasn’t had any impact on our preparation for the Wests Tigers match,” Moore said.
with Glenn Jackson