Brisbane have been struck a body blow ahead of their must-win semi-final against North Queensland with strike weapon James Roberts suspended at the NRL judiciary for contrary conduct.
Star centre Roberts was rubbed out on Wednesday night for one week after being found guilty of a grade-one contrary conduct charge for striking at Gold Coast’s Ryan Simpkins with his leg, ruling him out of Friday night’s grand final replay with North Queensland.
The 23-year-old, charged for striking at Simpkins as he lay in the ruck during the Broncos’ 44-28 win over Gold Coast last week, will be replaced by rookie Jonus Pearson.
Roberts was too upset to speak to waiting media but the club said they accepted the decision.
“We’re very disappointed with the result; we knew we were rolling the dice to come down here and get Jimmy off,” Broncos football manager Scott Czislowski said.
“We’ll just have to go into the game this week against the Cowboys without Jimmy. Hopefully, we can go on for another week so he can play again this year.”
The judiciary panel of Bob Lindner, Mal Cochrane and Sean Garlick took just six minutes to reach a guilty verdict at Rugby League Central.
Roberts was not charged with kicking because the match review committee (MRC) deemed there was insufficient force and therefore hit him with a contrary conduct charge.
NRL counsel Peter McGrath argued it was a “straight forward” case and Roberts had not acted in the true spirit of the game by lashing out with his feet.
He conceded Roberts had not kicked Simpkins but suggested he had struck out because he was frustrated at being held down in the tackle.
“It’s not a good look … it’s just not part of rugby league,” McGrath said.
However, Roberts’ defence counsel Nick Ghabar argued the MRC had contradicted themselves because they had not charged Roberts with kicking.
He said Roberts had been held down, grappled and locked up by the legs by Simpkins and he was trying to push himself off with his legs.
He said his client made “innocuous, incidental contact” with Simpkins and was simply trying to get out of the tackle.
“If it’s not kicking, then what about it is contrary to the spirit of the game?” Ghabar said.
However, the judiciary agreed with McGrath, rubbing out Roberts for a week, meaning the Broncos must win through to week three of the finals if he is to play again this year.
It was also a much-needed win for the MRC after recent criticism of a schism between that body and the judiciary.
The judiciary last week threw out a grade-two shoulder charge against Canberra’s Jack Wighton, leading some to question whether they were on the same page.