Josh Reynolds free to play in State of Origin II
NSW will attempt to end Queensland's State of Origin reign with their playmakers in tact, after five-eighth Josh Reynolds successfully had his grade two dangerous throw charge downgraded at the NRL Judiciary on Thursday night.
Reynolds' representative Nick Ghabar argued that fellow Blues' tackler Beau Scott significantly contributed to the dangerous position Queensland's Brent Tate was placed in during the spectacular tackle.
It took judiciary panel members Sean Garlick, Mick Vella and Paul Whatuira just under 10 minutes to agree that Reynolds' role in the dangerous nature of the incident was no worse than Scott's, who had only received a grade one charge.
Ghabar successfully argued that Scott had control of Tate as he was flung to the ground.
Reynolds escapes suspension entirely because of the discount he received for his early guilty plea, taking him down to 93 points, and he'll be free to take on Manly in Canterbury's next NRL match on June 6.
Scott for his part, also gets off without punishment, after he had already taken the early guilty plea.
The result will have Queensland crying conspiracy, after two NSW players avoided penalty for a tackle victim Tate described as the most frightening he's ever experienced.
Either way, the NRL's supposed crack-down on dangerous lifting tackles in the wake of the Alex McKinnon tragedy is still veiled in confusion.
Reynolds, who sat alongside Canterbury coach Des Hasler, mouthed "yes" as the verdict was read out.
After the hearing, Reynolds was gagged from speaking by his club, but Bulldogs chief executive Raelene Castle expressed her relief and said Reynolds was not a player who intends to injure opponents.
"We're really pleased with the decision tonight," said Castle.
"It was a brave decision to challenge the grading but it's been a really fair process. We're really pleased with it and it's great Josh can now be available for the Bulldogs and also State of Origin.
"Josh is one of those players who always plays with a huge amount of passion but certainly never ever plays with an intent to injure anyone and certainly that was the outcome of the hearing tonight."
The decision is a major plus for NSW coach Laurie Daley who will have a key playmaker, and one of the major architects of Wednesday's 12-8 game-one win on deck for Origin II on June 18 at ANZ Stadium.
For a side that could be significantly affected by injury, having Reynolds available is a massive boost as NSW look to end Queensland's run of eight-straight series victories.
Reynolds is the latest high profile Blues star to successfully earn a downgrade at the NRL Judiciary for a lifting tackle, after Greg Bird avoided missing the entire Origin series when he fronted the panel two weeks ago.
Blues coach Daley on Thursday confirmed Bird would come back into the NSW side for game II, however it won't be in the halves after Reynolds' good news.
Speaking at Sydney airport earlier on Thursday, Reynolds said missing Origin II would have "killed me."
"Devastating. For them to take that off me for something like that.... it would kill me. You dream about things like this," he said.
Castle said there was an option to defer the hearing, but the club was eager to bring the matter to a close and not have lingering distractions.
NRL counsel Peter Kite argued that the grade two charge should have stood because of the "unacceptable risk of injury" created by Reynolds in the tackle.
Kite said Tate lost all capacity to protect himself, arguing that if Reynolds hadn't lifted the player would have never been placed in a dangerous position.