Guilty: Mitchell rubbed out for preliminary final
SYDNEY Roosters star Latrell Mitchell was found guilty of an ugly crusher tackle and has been kicked out of Saturday week's massive grand final qualifier.
The one-match suspension of champion Mitchell is a savage blow for the Roosters.
Mitchell last night pleaded not guilty to a dangerous contact head/neck charge at an NRL judiciary hearing inside Rugby League Central.
He will now be banned from the preliminary final against the winner of Saturday evening's massive semi-final between South Sydney and St George Illawarra.
A three-member judiciary panel of former players - Bob Lindner, Tony Puletua and Sean Garlick - took 12 minutes to reach a verdict.
Mitchell admitted jumping in the air while committing a crusher tackle on Sharks centre Josh Dugan in the 42nd minute of last Saturday night's qualifying final.
During the hearing, Mitchell said: "I didn't want to hurt him - you don't go out to deliberately hurt someone. I didn't have any intention of hurting his neck.
"I tried to use my body weight to bring him down. There was no force onto his neck - I felt like I was in control.
"Josh Dugan is a big man who is strong and powerful. I wanted to be dominant in my tackle. He was going to run hard and I had to be steely. I tried to be dominant but also look after him and get him on his back for a slower play the ball."
Mitchell admitted he did make contact with Dugan's head.
"It's possible, I could have," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said he attempted to create a pocket of space under his right arm pit for Dugan's head to fall through.
"I felt I was courteous of his neck and left a space for him to fall through," Mitchell said. "I didn't apply force to his neck. Your neck is an important part of the body. I tried to look after him as best I could.
"There was always care there for my opponent. I was trying to stay tight. (But) I could have been more courteous with the way he went through."
Roosters assistant coach and defensive coach, Craig Fitzgibbon, was called as a witness, despite some resistance from judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew, a NSW Supreme Court judge.
Questioned about his club's defensive techniques, Fitzgibbon said: "We show care. You've got to release the head if it's in a dangerous position."
Roosters coach Trent Robinson supported Mitchell at the hearing while NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg was part of the gallery.
NRL counsel Peter McGrath showed five different angles of the incident along with still frames. Mitchell's representative, barrister James McLeod, said: "There was not an unacceptable risk of injury."
It was only a grade one charge but Mitchell has 75 carry over points from another incident late in the season.
With Mitchell suspended, Robinson will now need to find a replacement centre and new goalkicker.
The safest option for Robinson would be shifting second-tower Mitch Aubusson to centre. Mitchell has made 101 tackle busts and scored 236 points this season.