South Sydney face the prospect of losing star forward Sam Burgess for two matches after the Englishman was charged with contrary conduct by the match review committee.
Burgess was slugged with a grade one charge for an alleged ‘squirrel grip’ on Melbourne centre Will Chambers in Friday’s defeat by the Storm at AAMI Park.
Making a tackle, Burgess appeared to place his hands between the legs of Chambers, who remained prostrate on the ground afterwards.
While the charge itself only carries a base penalty of one week, Burgess’ loading from four prior offences means he would miss two matches even with an early guilty plea.
The loss of the 24-year-old would be a huge blow for the Rabbitohs who’ve lost three of their last four matches to slip off the top of the ladder.
Should he plead guilty he would miss facing a red-hot Manly on Friday in Gosford followed by the meeting with a Canterbury side who are gunning for a top-four spot.
Souths made the unusual step of issuing a statement on Monday afternoon to say they’re considering their options and would be assessing the incident.
But there’s a good chance the club will opt to roll the dice and fight the charge as Burgess will not be punished for a longer spell should he challenge the match review committee’s ruling in front of the NRL judiciary on Wednesday evening and lose.
The news caps off a difficult month for Souths, who are looking to win a first premiership in 43 years, with injuries hitting fullback Greg Inglis and five-eighth John Sutton.
Inglis is tipped to return for the Manly game at Bluetongue Stadium with the third-placed Sea Eagles able to close the gap to a single point on the ladder with a victory.
Burgess isn’t the first player to be accused of the squirrel grip in the NRL.
In 2008 Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen was accused of squeezing the testicles of former Gold Coast utility Josh Graham.
Gallen wasn’t charged for the incident due to a lack of evidence but Graham was adamant at the time claiming the NSW star had “squeezed his wheels”.
Manly are also facing the loss of key back-rower Anthony Watmough for the game.
Watmough hyper-extended his knee in the win over the Warriors on Sunday and the club were still awaiting results of the scans on Monday to determine the extent of the damage sustained by the NSW and Test star.
Brisbane are coming to terms with the news Justin Hodges will be sidelined for up to a year after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the Broncos’ narrow win over St George Illawarra.
The victory kept alive their flickering finals hopes, but without Hodges the Broncos have struggled in attack for large spells this season.
However, hooker Andrew McCullough insists the team will have to learn how to win games without the representative centre, starting against Parramatta on Friday.
“It is sad for Hodgo but in saying that he would want us to play well, turn it around against Parra and take steps from there,” McCullough said.
“It can’t hinge on one person being injured.
“Someone has to fill that void. He (Hodges) would want someone to get that job done.”