Harry Grant wins landmark NRL judiciary fight

Jasper Bruce |

Melbourne skipper Harry Grant (r) has beaten his dangerous contact charge at the judiciary.
Melbourne skipper Harry Grant (r) has beaten his dangerous contact charge at the judiciary.

Harry Grant has won his landmark fight against one of the NRL’s hot-button issues as the judiciary found the Melbourne captain not guilty of making dangerous contact with Daniel Atkinson’s legs as he kicked.

After an hour-long hearing on Tuesday night, judiciary panellists Tony Puletua and Sean Hampstead took roughly 10 minutes to clear Grant of his grade-one dangerous contact charge.

It means Grant will not have to pay the $1,500 fine he had risked by challenging the charge, increased from the $1,000 offered with an early guilty plea.

The panel found Grant’s contact with the Cronulla five-eighth’s foot carried a risk of injury in that he had been in a vulnerable position kicking the ball just before half-time at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

But the panel felt Grant had not been careless, a prerequisite to finding him guilty, because he had slowed down and altered his line in an attempt to mitigate the risk of contact.

Illegal pressure on kickers’ legs has been a hot topic this NRL season, with Aidan Sezer, Josh Aloiai, Freddy Lussick, Jacob Host and Kitione Kautoga among those charged by the match review committee.

The league’s football boss Graham Annesley denied on Monday referees had been directed to crack down on the move, which sees a defender run through and contact a player’s leg after they kick the ball.

The move can come with serious risk of injury; South Sydney halfback Lachlan Ilias and Penrith’s Brad Schneider have both suffered leg injuries as a result of illegal kick pressure this season, though admittedly both incidents took place in reserve grade.

Grant found himself sin-binned for his contact with Atkinson during the Storm’s 25-18 loss and appeared incredulous as he walked from the field.

The Storm skipper indicated on Monday he would fight the charge and appeared at NRL headquarters via video link on Tuesday night, joined by long-time Storm football boss Frank Ponissi.

The NRL’s counsel Lachlan Gyles suggested Grant had been careless given he collided with Atkinson in a vulnerable position and that a player as “skilful” and “coordinated” as the Queensland representative should have been able to avoid contact entirely.

But Grant’s counsel Nic Ghabar successfully disputed the claims, saying “not even a ballerina” would have been capable of pulling out of applying pressure on the kicker, as Grant was entitled to.

Ghabar used video footage to show Grant had veered to the left to reduce the risk of contact and had slowed down as Atkinson kicked the ball.