A win for Slater, Storm and rugby league
COMMON sense prevails.
A win for Billy Slater, a win for Melbourne Storm, and, a win for the game at large.
What a mess the Slater circus has been.
Instead of banging on about what constitutes a collision or shoulder charge, the past few days, we all should have been glued to the most anticipated NRL grand final in 20 years.
The top two teams in the competition, with the best and brightest players on the planet, on the biggest stage, in front of the biggest crowd of season.
Slater deserves the chance to go out this way, wearing his beloved No. 1 Storm jersey and mesmerising his adoring fans for the 319th and last time.
Toss into the mix the mystery around Cooper Cronk's injury, the Will Chambers and Latrell Mitchell bubbling rivalry, the big boppers in the middle, and, the Storm's bid to come the first club since Wayne Bennett's 1992-93 Brisbane Broncos to win back-to-back premierships.
A golden opportunity to #TalkTheGameUp - as NRL chief executive Todd Greenburg so gleefully crusaded at the start of the season - gone begging?
At least, common sense prevailed at League Central, after five days of uncertainty, when the NRL Judiciary annulled a two-game career-ending ban slapped on Slater.
The Storm, represented by Sydney lawyer Nick Ghabar, successfully convinced the panel of respected past players that Slater's contact with Cronulla's Sosaia Feki last Friday night was an unavoidable collision, as opposed to the more sinister shoulder charge.
The NRL tightened rules around shoulder charges in 2012, after Souths' star Greg Inglis blatantly lined up Dragons hooker Dean Young and left him with a severe concussion.
Inglis was suspended for three matches.
The code moved to clarify its position last year, mandating players can be cited for a shoulder charge if contact is "forceful" and, no attempt is made to tackle or hold with arms or hands.
We get it.
Squaring up and picking off unsuspecting ball carriers in head on "north-south" bumps is bad.
But no one, anywhere, could look at the Slater-Feki collision and seriously, hand-on-heart, accuse the Storm legend of doing anything close to what the rule was designed to outlaw.
Slater solely intended to stop Feki from scoring in the 14th minute of the grand final qualifier.
Thankfully, Slater gets the chance to play on Sunday, a worthy stage, regardless of the result, for the Storm and Queensland legend to draw the curtain on his highly-decorated career.
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