Jordan McLean will serve a seven-game suspension after he was found guilty of a dangerous throw charge on Newcastle's Alex McKinnon that has left him in hospital with a spinal injury.
A clearly distraught McLean was handed the 725-point suspension on Wednesday night, however the judiciary panel comprising of former players Bob Lindner, Mal Cochrane and Chris McKenna wouldn't provide a breakdown of what part the injury to McKinnon played in the suspension.
Given it was referred straight to the judiciary, it's unknown whether McLean was handed a grade one suspension (125 points) with 600 point loading, a grade two suspension (325 points) with a 400 point loading, a grade three suspension (525 points) with a 200 point loading or a grade four suspension (725 points) without loading.
Melbourne chief executive Mark Evans fronted the media following the hearing, and while he threw his full support behind McKinnon, believes the seven-game suspension was over the top, and hinted the club would appeal against the ban that has rubbed McLean out until round 13 against the Roosters.
"The first point we want to make is, along with everyone in rugby league, it's really important that the future and all of our best goes to the young fellow who is still very seriously injured," Evans said.
"That can't be obscured by anything that happens in the disciplinary process. We came here tonight with Jordan feeling that the tackle that led to the terrible accident was really no different to hundreds of tackles you see like that in the NRL every season.
"There's been a due process and a sentence has been handed down. We're going to think of our position as a club over the next few days. As I say, there aren't really any winners in this and there was never going to be. I think it's really important this sport doesn't lose sight of that."
It was arguably the most sensitive and emotional judiciary hearing in the NRL's history, with McLean's defence counsel forced to plead his innocence over a tackle that left McKinnon with a broken neck and a long and arduous battle to walk again.
The 22-year-old McLean, sitting alongside Evans, couldn't watch the evidence as it was presented repeatedly from all eight television angles and in slow motion.
The stunned and silent McLean sat there staring at the desk in front of him, unable to turn his head from that position for the most part of the hearing as the tackle was continuously replayed and dissected.
NRL judiciary counsel Peter Kite said the tackle was worth a grade two to three as a base charge, while the Storm's legal representative Nick Ghabar viewed it as grade one.
Ghabar argued that it wasn't McLean's fault that McKinnon ended up in a dangerous position despite lifting his leg, suggesting McKinnon played a part.
"I do not mean to apportion blame to him for what has happened to him," Ghabar said.
"What I mean to say is he has unfortunately and unwittingly and undoubtedly played a significant part in how this tackle ended up. My ultimate submission will be that this is a tragic accident, and whatever Alex did in this tackle he did as part of a tragic accident. That's purely what it was.
"Although there was a lift at the start of the tackle, that lift on itself doesn't place Alex into a dangerous position. If Alex had kept his head in the same position, there's no way he could have got his head in a dangerous position if he'd kept his head in the same position [as he was at the highest point of the tackle]."
McLean wasn't the only person in the tackle, with Ghabar also arguing that brothers Kenny and Jesse Bromwich also contributed to the dangerous position McKinnon ended up in.
"They were applying weight and pressure in a downward direction on the back of Alex McKinnon," Ghabar said.
It took the three-man panel just 10 minutes to find McLean guilty, while deliberation of the grading took a lot longer, with Lindner, Cochrane and McKenna, who were also given a medical report of McKinnon's condition, taking 30 minutes to reach their decision.
McLean was placed on report for the tackle at AAMI Park but was referred straight to the judiciary given the sensitivity surrounding the tackle.
He was originally stood down from the Storm's next game until his hearing, which had also been postponed out of respect for McKinnon and his family.
However, the NRL granted the forward an exemption to play in last Saturday night's game against the Bulldogs in Perth, with Melbourne seeking leave directly from the NRL judiciary chairman, adamant it was the best thing for McLean's wellbeing.
McKinnon fractured his C4 and C5 vertebrae, and is now conscious after being placed in an induced coma for a week following surgery at Melbourne's Alfred Hospital.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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