Steve Matai's 150th NRL game could also be his last for the season after Manly's serial offender was slugged with a one-match ban for a high shot on fellow Kiwis international Sam Perrett.
Matai's tackle, during an aggressive opening quarter in Friday's qualifying final between the reigning premiers and the Bulldogs, predictably had repercussions for a player boasting the worst disciplinary record in the competition over the past five years.
The centre was penalised plus placed on report for an incident Perrett could not remember and faced further sanctions today when the NRL's match review committee charged him with a grade two careless high tackle.
Matai will be ruled out of Friday's semifinal against North Queensland at Allianz Stadium if he lodges an early guilty plea; if he opts to fight the charge and is found guilty by the judiciary on Wednesday he will still only miss one match.
The club has until tomorrow to decide which course of action to take.
It is the 13th charge Matai has faced since the start of 2007 and adds to a rap sheet already featuring six careless high tackles, two reckless high tackles, two dangerous contact charges, one contrary conduct charge and one striking charge.
Matai has been banned for 20 weeks by the match review committee since 2007 after copping 10 guilty verdicts.
His most recent suspension amounted to two games for a swinging arm that knocked out Penrith's Danny Galea in May.
Matai avoided waiting media after the match at ANZ Stadium but told the Manly website: "It didn't look too bad to me."
Perrett battled on despite a clout to the jaw, but only had vague recollections of the Bulldogs' progression to the preliminary final.
"I don't remember a whole lot, I just can't remember patches. I've got a sore jaw. I guess I was on autopilot," the wing said.
Matai revealed a desire to resurrect his 12-test career for the first time since 2009 earlier this season after injuries and suspension conspired to rule him out of contention.
A seven-match ban for a high tackle on Bulldogs hooker Michael Ennis in the final round of the 2010 season was particularly costly as it lost him a potential place on that year's Four Nations tournament-winning squad.
A neck injury ensured he was unavailable for last year's Four Nations.
"For the last few years I've missed out through injury and suspension. I'm hoping to get my body right and hopefully things fall into place after that," he said.
At least this charge does not prevent him gaining selection for next month's one-off trans-Tasman test in Townsville.
Unless Matai successfully fights the charge, or contests the grading, Manly will almost certainly need two new centres against the Cowboys given co-captain Jamie Lyon is struggling with a calf injury.
Dean Whare, Tony Williams and Michael Oldfield are all possible solutions.
Meanwhile, the disciplinary record of Manly's other co-captain Jason King means the front rower is eligible to play the Cowboys despite being charged with a grade one careless high tackle that dazed the Bulldogs' English international prop James Graham.
An early guilty plea by Kiwis second rower Kevin Proctor, for his grade one dangerous throw on the Rabbitohs' Sam Burgess, will also free him up for the Melbourne Storm's preliminary final against the winner of the South Sydney and Canberra Raiders semifinal on Saturday night.
Siosaia Vave faced an identical charge for the same incident and also escaped a ban with an early guilty plea.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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