The NRL judiciary has handed down heavy sanctions for Wade Graham and Jordan Rapana, after a pair of heavy hits on Saturday.
The Sharks veteran and Raiders winger were both hit with four-match suspensions for the incidents, with an early plea to reduce the sanction to three weeks on the sidelines.
Rapana controversially only conceded a penalty for a brutal shoulder charge on Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater, the winger appearing to make little effort to wrap his arms and following up with a swinging arm on the prone fullback.
The charge is Rapana’s second already in 2023, having copped a $3000 fine for a high hit on Tigers five-eighth Adam Doueihi during the trials.
Graham, meanwhile, was sent to the sin-bin for a colossal shot on Davvy Moale in the Sharks’ 27-18 loss to the Rabbitohs, which Fox League commentator Greg Alexander described as “the biggest hit I have seen for some time”.
“My god. That was one hell of a shot from Wade Graham,” Alexander added.
The incident divided the NRL world, with some fans calling for Graham to be sent off after making contact with Kaufusi’s head, while others labelled the hit fair play.
Speaking after the match, Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou took the latter stance.
“He [Graham] shot out and it’s risky now when you shoot out like that,” Demetriou said. “I don’t think there was any intent in it, though.”
Graham’s co-captain, Dale Finucane, said his fellow forward was trying to bring his team back into the contest with the hit as they trailed by eight points heading into the final stretch.
“Obviously with the type of game that it was and the points we needed to make up,” said Finucane, who was suspended for dangerous contact in similar circumstances last year.
“Wade was looking to change the momentum and cause a collision to get the ball back for us. I think any player in any team would want to be doing that.”
Cronulla second-rower Briton Nikora was charged with a grade-one shoulder charge but can accept a fine and play next week.
Sharks forward Braden Hamlin-Uele and Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt were the other players charged out of Saturday’s games, with both able to take fines.
Earlier in the round, Knights forward Adam Elliott and Storm forward Eliesa Katoa were hit with dangerous contact charges but will also only receive fines for their indiscretions.