Blair banned as Stewart case delayed - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Blair banned as Stewart case delayed

By Steve Jancetic and Ian McCullough 31/08/2011 09:18:28 PM Comments (0)

An unprecedented night at the NRL judiciary brought an end to Adam Blair's time with Melbourne as Manly backrower Glenn Stewart earned a 24 hour reprieve to rebuild a case which bordered on the farcical on Wednesday night.

Blair was banned for three games for his involvement in a fight with Stewart which sparked an all-in brawl at Brookvale Oval on Friday night.

On top of his two game ban for striking, it means Blair won't play during the Storm's finals campaign.

But the real drama was in the other camp. The Sea Eagles were granted an adjournment after their legal representative Christopher Branson sensationally quit the case just hours before it was due to be heard at NRL headquarters.

Manly chairman Scott Penn claimed Branson had informed the club he could not represent Stewart "around lunchtime" on Wednesday, with Branson at loggerheads with both the club and the NRL.

Branson had sought clarification on a number of rulings within the NRL's code under which Stewart was charged. His frustrations were evident in an email to judiciary chairman Paul Conlon on Wednesday in which he asked: "What is the NRL's charge against Glenn Stewart?"

Following Branson's withdrawal, the club engaged the services of Alan Sullivan QC, with Conlon obliging with Manly's request for more time.

"There was nothing you could do," Conlon said.

"You were left high and dry by counsel."

The change of legal representative allows the Sea Eagles the opportunity to change their plea but Penn said a decision had yet to be made on the matter.

"At this stage that's certainly the plea (not guilty) that we've put in, Alan will be reviewing it overnight and we'll be meeting him in the morning," Penn said.

Blair, who will join Wests Tigers next season, may yet play again in 2011, with the relatively light ban reopening the possibility of him playing for New Zealand in the end of season Four Nations tournament.

But any chance he may have had of potentially playing in a grand final is now gone.

"It is a big price, especially for Adam personally," Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said.

"This is now the end of his playing career at Melbourne ... whilst he won't be taking his place for the rest of the year with the Melbourne Storm, he'll still be part of the team and contributing.

"We thought the penalty was excessive.

"He's disappointed and shattered on number of fronts ... for him to finish like this is really disappointing, he's taking it tough."

NRL counsel Peter Kite had recommended a penalty of five to seven matches for his role in the 24th-minute flashpoint - which occurred as both players were headed to the sin-bin, but the committee of Mark Coyne, Sean Garlick and Michael Buettner took 10 minutes to impose just a three game ban.

Blair, who was represented by lawyer Geoff Bellew, once again expressed his remorse for the incident, with Parramatta and New Zealand Test coach Stephen Kearney called in to vouch for the 25-year-old as a character witness.

Blair claimed he was jogging off the field when Stewart made a comment to him.

"I said to him 'what did you say'? He grabbed my jumper, I tried to push him off, he then threw the first punch and I retaliated," he told the hearing.

"I was disappointed in my actions, I shouldn't have done it and I regret it."

Bellew said Kite's recommendation was "manifestly excessive and unwarranted" and claimed the fight between Blair and Stewart lasted three seconds, before the other Manly players joined in.

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