Matai beats NRL headbutting charge - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Matai beats NRL headbutting charge

By Todd Balym 18/07/2007 07:56:26 PM Comments (0)

Manly centre Steve Matai will be warned about his behaviour by the NRL club after he escaped his second headbutting charge this year.

Matai was facing a two-week suspension for an alleged headbutt on Wests Tigers forward Chris Heighington.

But the Kiwi international beat the grade-one contrary conduct charge at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night, the Sea Eagles successfully arguing Matai didn't intentionally make contact with Heighington's head and was instead merely bracing for contact in the 37th minute incident.

After a 40-minute hearing, the NRL Judiciary panel of Mark Coyne, Bob Lindner and Don McKinnon took about five minutes to find Matai not guilty.

It was the second headbutting charge Matai had escaped this year.

He was cleared by Downing Centre Local Court in January of assaulting 31-year-old Mona Vale man Joseph Nasser with a headbutt at the Surf Rock Hotel at Collaroy in June last year.

Manly chief executive Grant Mayer said Matai was right to be cleared of any wrongdoing by the NRL Judiciary but it was likely the player's behaviour would be addressed at some stage in the coaching staff's evaluation of the game.

"I don't think we have to particularly look at it, he was found not guilty so there is no need to do that," said Mayer.

"(But) it will be part of the process that the coaching staff go through, looking at his game and the way he plays.

"It was not an intentional headbutt.

"We don't think he is overly aggressive and he certainly plays the game the way it should be played."

Matai was cross-examined by judiciary counsel Peter Kite during the hearing and when he asked if he considered his actions to be a headbutt the Kiwi Test player said: "If I was going to headbutt him, surely I would grab him.

"I know what a headbutt is. If that was a headbutt it was pretty embarrassing."

Matai's case was supported by a statement from Heighington who confirmed there had been contact from Matai's head during the altercation, but said via telephone that "we both went in together and our heads touched each other".

Matai, represented by former judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew QC, argued he was simply "bracing for a collision" when he lowered his head and closed his eyes as he approached Heighington in their scuffle.

Kite called upon the judiciary to set an example of Matai, saying the NRL set the standard for rugby league across the country.

"It's a violent game and it cannot be tolerated," said Kite.

"This level of the game is under the closest scrutiny ... it needs to be setting the standard for the game as a sporting and fair contest."

Matai made a brief statement after the hearing.

"Obviously I'm happy with the outcome and just looking forward to this Friday against the (Cronulla) Sharks," he said.

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