The Sydney Roosters will need to rely on a rookie dummy half, who has played just 48 minutes of NRL football in three months, for their semi-final showdown with Manly.
Ben Marschke looms as the likely replacement for Sam Verrills, who was found guilty of a careless high tackle at the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night.
Sam Verrills contested a high tackle charge at the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night.Credit:Getty
Verrills landed in hot water for his tackle on Gold Coast centre Brian Kelly during Saturday’s 25-24 elimination-final thriller.
He sought a downgrade from grade two to grade one, which would have allowed him to escape with a fine and take his place in Mackay on Friday night against his childhood club the Sea Eagles.
Instead, Verrills will miss the semi-final and next Friday’s preliminary final should the Roosters keep overcoming the odds and defeat Manly.
No club has been more affected by suspensions and injuries than the Roosters. Verrills started the season as the back-up dummy half behind Jake Friend, who was forced into retirement after being knocked out in the opening round.
Verrills has also had a roller-coaster year with injuries, including a semi-detached retina in the middle of the season.
Marschke has played 12 games, including just two in the past three months. He got into a verbal stoush with Latrell Mitchell during an explosive showdown with South Sydney a few weeks ago. Sio Siua Taukeiaho is also out for the Roosters due to a calf complaint.
NRL judiciary chair Geoff Bellew told the panel to ignore the fact it was finals time.
Verrills’ lawyer James McLeod argued Parramatta’s Junior Paulo had been charged with a grade-one careless high tackle on Kurt Mann on Sunday afternoon, yet his tackle was worse than his client’s. Paulo was hit with a $1600 fine.
“The level of carelessness [in Paulo’s tackle] was higher,” McLeod told the three-man judiciary panel of Bob Lindner, Dallas Johnson and Ben Creagh.
“It’s right at the lowest end of the scale – it’s minimal carelessness.
“If you tap into your experience with defence and making tackles and setting yourself into position to make a tackle, you’ll come to the view he [Verrills] realistically did very, very little wrong here.”
NRL counsel Peter McGrath said Verrills “carelessly made contact to Kelly’s head” and “there is very little in the way of mitigating features that would reduce the seriousness of the tackle”.
The NRL has cracked down heavily on contact to the head, but the Roosters were convinced Verrills would succeed in getting a downgrade.
Immortal Andrew Johns said on the weekend the tackle did not even warrant a penalty, but based on previous incidents Verrills was always going to do it tough to avoid suspension.
Meanwhile, Brisbane forwards Tom Flegler and Jordan Riki have made amends after the pair were embroiled in a “wrestle that went a little wrong” during post-season celebrations.
The pair were involved in an altercation last week which sources with knowledge of the situation claim left Riki needing stitches. Broncos officials have cautioned the pair about their behaviour, although no further action will be taken.
“We were out last Wednesday night and got in a wrestle that went a little wrong and Jordan ended up with a cut on his face,” Flegler said.
“We went our separate ways that night and I gave him a call the next day to sort it out. It was silly and I apologised. We’ve agreed to keep our wrestling sessions to in-season from now on.”
Riki said he didn’t harbour any ill will over the incident.
“Tom reached out to me the next day and we spoke about what happened and we are absolutely sweet,” Riki said.
“I appreciated him being up front and getting in contact and we’re both now looking forward to a bit of a break.”
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