Pritchard free to face Manly - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Pritchard free to face Manly

By Ian McCullough 17/08/2011 08:50:32 PM Comments (0)

Canterbury backrower Frank Pritchard will be free to face Manly on Sunday after his grade three careless tackle charge was downgraded to a grade two offence at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday.

Pritchard, who arrived 10 minutes late for the hearing at the NRL's head office in Sydney, was charged following a huge hit to the head of Cronulla playmaker Wade Graham in Monday's clash at Toyota Stadium.

The New Zealand international was represented by Geoff Bellew, who argued successfully that the grading for the incident was too high.

Bellew used video footage of a grade two tackle made by South Sydney's Ben Lowe where the Rabbitohs prop used a swinging arm to catch an opponent in a game with Newcastle earlier this season, and claimed it was worse than Pritchard's but received a lower grading.

He said players were entitled to a degree of consistency and that the challenge on Graham was only a "matter of inches" away from being a fair tackle.

The panel made up of Michael Buettner, Mal Cochrane and Darrell Williams found in favour of Pritchard after 30 minutes of deliberation.

With Pritchard having no carry over offences, the 93-point penalty from the grade two charge was below the 100 points minimum required for a suspension. The NRL's counsel Peter Kite said players have a special duty of care to their opponents and argued that Pritchard didn't bend his back and the contact was "extremely forceful" and threw Graham to the ground "like a ragdoll."

"Big hits have to be fair and players have to have a duty to get lower and be just and fair to their opponent by getting below the margin of the head and neck," Kite said.

The 10th-placed Bulldogs sit two points outside of the top eight, and need to beat the Sea Eagles at Brookvale to realistically keep alive their season.

"I'm very happy and now I can focus of playing Manly at the weekend," Pritchard said.

"I was a bit nervous, it is daunting in there, but we were pretty confident ... I felt it was a fair tackle, it was just one of those things where my shoulder made a bit of contact with his head."

At an earlier hearing, Warriors backrower Ukuma Ta'ai was unsuccessful in his bid to downgrade his grade two striking charge.

The panel ruled that Ta'ai's challenge on Newcastle's James McManus during Saturday's clash at Mount Smart Stadium was worthy of a two-match suspension.

The 24-year-old will miss the Warriors' clashes with Penrith on Saturday and St George Illawarra.

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