Technicality Smith's only finals hope - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Technicality Smith's only finals hope

By Steve Jancetic and Laine Clark 21/09/2008 07:17:22 PM Comments (0)

It appears only a technicality can save Cameron Smith's NRL season with the Melbourne skipper almost certain to be charged by the NRL match review committee.

While Smith thought he had little to worry about over his role in the 60th minute tackle on Brisbane forward Sam Thaiday in Saturday night's gripping semi-final win, influential figures within the game thought differently.

Former Test halfback Peter Sterling said there was little doubt Smith would be charged with a grapple tackle for pulling awkwardly at the head of Thaiday, a grade one charge enough to wipe the Test No.9 out for two matches.

"I don't know if technically it is a grapple tackle, but it's certainly attacking the head or neck of the opponent and he's in serious trouble," Sterling told the Nine Network.

"There is nothing good that is going to come out of that kind of tackle."

A charge would not only rule Smith out of Friday night's preliminary final against Cronulla but also rub him out of the grand final should the Storm progress.

That's because Smith was already forced to take an early guilty plea for a grapple tackle on New Zealand Warriors centre Brent Tate in round one this year.

Not only did it leave Smith with 93 carry-over points hanging over his head, but it also means any similar charge will carry a 50 per cent loading.

"I don't think there was any intent involved and I didn't try and twist or choke him or anything like that," Smith said.

"It's getting close to grand final time and I guess the team will be waiting on a decision.

"They've looked at tackles like this all year and made their decision ... it's out of our hands."

Smith's only hope would appear to be the match review committee not deeming the incident a grapple tackle but rather a striking or high tackle charge, which would result in no loading to the charge.

The tackle was not in the traditional realm of the grapple tackle when players are placed in a headlock by a defender.

But it appears a forlorn hope, with the contrary conduct charge covering any unnecessary conduct with the head or neck.

Earlier this year Gold Coast pivot Mat Rogers was banned for one game when he performed a similar face pulling tackle on Melbourne winger Steve Turner.

Storm halfback Cooper Cronk did his best to downplay the incident, which could also see Kiwi Test forward Jeremy Smith charged with a `chicken wing' tackle for grabbing at Thaiday's arm.

"(Cameron Smith) is very important to what we do but I didn't think there was too much in it, he didn't get stuck in aggressively or too much," Cronk said.

"I don't think we will be losing him.

"But we've played games without Smithy before with Origin and stuff like that, we've got a lot of depth."

If Smith is ruled out, Storm coach Craig Bellamy would likely turn to veteran utility Matt Geyer to fill the dummy half role, while former Cronulla halfback Russell Aitken would also come into calculations.

Geyer played in the No.9 in two of the three games Smith missed due to Origin commitments this year - the only Storm matches that Smith missed this season.

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