The one-game suspension dealt to Roosters hooker Sam Verrills for his high shot has been increased to a two-match ban, after he failed in his appeal at the NRL judiciary.
After Verrills was hit with a one-match ban for his high hit on Titans centre Brian Kelly in Saturday’s elimination final win, he and the Roosters entered an early guilty plea but attempted to downgrade the charge from a suspension to a fine.
Verrills’ unsuccessful challenge means the 22-year-old will not only miss the Roosters’ knockout semi-final clash with the Sea Eagles on Friday night, but the Tricolours’ preliminary final match if they get that far.
Therefore, Verrills will only take to the field again this season in the unlikely event of the resilient but heavily undermanned Roosters reaching the grand final.
Verrills’ representative, lawyer James McLeod, argued the dummy-half “did very little wrong”.
McLeod insisted that Roosters second-rower Sitili Tupouniua, who made contact with Kelly before Verrills, shifted the ball-carrier “probably 20 or 30 centimetres” and into the path of Verrills’ right shoulder, creating mitigating circumstances.
“(Verrills) is entitled to set himself before the contact with Tupouniua and Kelly a split second before,” McLeod said.
“He doesn’t have time to adjust after the contact between Tupouniua and Kelly.”
But NRL prosecutor Peter McGrath argued that Tupouniua’s contact did not cause a drop in Kelly’s head height or redirect his running line.
“There is very little in the way of mitigating features that would reduce the seriousness of the tackle,” McGrath said.
The panel that upheld Verrills’ original charge consisted of Queensland Maroons and Test Kangaroos great Bob Lindner, 2010 Dragons premiership back-rower Ben Creagh and former Storm and Cowboys lock Dallas Johnson.
As coach Trent Robinson weighs up how to fill Verrills’ void, he can give Ben Marschke the No.9 jumper, inject Freddy Lussick into the side or shift Drew Hutchison from five-eighth to hooker.
Rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns said on Nine’s post-match coverage of the Roosters-Titans clash that he didn’t even think Verrills’ high shot on Kelly warranted a penalty.
“Kelly is falling, he cannot disappear, Sam Verills is committed to the tackle,” Johns said.
“But, if you look at Brian Kelly – his nose is broken. And if they’re going to be consistent … And you can compare them to other hits we’ve seen recently …
“For me it’s not even a penalty. Brian Kelly’s falling, Sam Verrills committed to the tackle, unfortunately there are collisions that are going to happen.
“But, if they’re going to be consistent, Sam won’t be playing next week, because they can’t change the decisions they’ve made over the last month or two.”
If the Roosters lose to the Sea Eagles this week, Verrills will serve the second game of his two-match suspension in the opening round of next season.