Stewart can still play in NRL decider - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Stewart can still play in NRL decider

By Ben Horne 01/09/2011 09:08:56 PM Comments (0)

Manly second rower Glenn Stewart will rely on team-mates to keep his season alive by qualifying for the NRL grand final after he was suspended for three matches at the judiciary on Thursday night.

In a positive result for the Test and NSW Origin representative, Stewart hasn't necessarily played his last game for 2011.

He will be eligible to play in at least the grand final should Manly make it that far, despite being found guilty of his contrary conduct charge.

NRL counsel Peter Kite submitted that Stewart and not Melbourne's Adam Blair, who fronted the judiciary on Wednesday, was the instigator in the infamous fight last Friday night.

Manly representative Alan Sullivan QC argued that Blair was in fact the aggressor in the situation, but in the end the judiciary panel determined both were equally at fault by issuing the same suspension.

In what was already a dramatic week for rugby league, the 30 hours leading into Thursday night's eventual hearing were manic for the Sea Eagles.

Not only did they have to rush for an adjournment and seek a new legal counsel, the Sea Eagles also stood down club official Peter Peters for a sexist remark he made to a female television journalist on the Wednesday night.

After Thursday night's final hearing Sea Eagles chairman Scott Penn refused to comment on Peters' situation, however chief operating officer David Perry confirmed the long-standing media manager would be stood down until Monday.

"I'm not going to comment specifically on an internal matter however there was a comment made last night that was inappropriate in the circumstances, he's apologised and the club apologises as well," Penn said.

Stewart's case took a sensational turn when under the direction of new counsel Alan Sullivan QC he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty.

Judiciary chairman Paul Conlon recommended to panel members Sean Garlick, Michael Buettner and Mark Coyne that the lateness of Stewart's guilty plea shouldn't prevent his admission of guilt from being a mitigating factor.

While Blair's additional charge for striking saw him rubbed out for the entire season on Wednesday night, Stewart was able to breath a sigh of relief when the panel opened the window for him to still feature in Manly's premiership tilt.

"I'd just like to say I'm disappointed of course but I'd like to thank the guys for having a fair hearing and obviously it's very consistent and I'd like to thank the Manly club for the support and our counsel and for the judiciary system allowing us an extra further 24 hours," Stewart said after the hearing.

At about lunch time on Wednesday Christopher Branson QC reportedly informed Manly he would no longer be representing them at the hearing.

Branson refused to comment on the circumstances when contacted by AAP on Thursday, but said he planned to issue a statement with his version of events on Friday morning.

Crucial to Stewart's chances was the panel granting him the same dispensation for an early guilty plea as Blair - even though that wasn't his original option.

"The player was a pawn in the middle of all this. I don't think he should be prejudiced," Conlon recommended.

Stewart and Blair engaged in a separate one-on-one fight after they were sinbinned and were referred directly to the judiciary.

Kite submitted that Stewart was the aggressor.

Stewart said he was only trying to protect himself and it was Blair and not he who had initiated a verbal exchange.

"I'd seen him hit someone before so I didn't want to have my back turned to him the whole time (as I was walking off)," said Stewart.

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