Maroons wrecking ball David Fifita may be forced out of Origin III after being hit with a dangerous contact charge in the Titans’ win over the Raiders.
Fifita faces a one match man for the late tackle, but as the Titans have a bye in round 17, will miss the third Origin game unless he successfully argues his case at the NRL judiciary.
The former Bronco was sent to the sin bin for the shot, which referee Matt Cecchin called “late and unnecessary” on field.
“If you go on what they’ve been doing this season … I’m happy with (the sin bin),” said Tigers great Steve Roach in his call of the game.
Should Fifita miss the game, he will join the likes of injured stars Harry Grant, Lindsay Collins, Reece Walsh and Reed Mahoney in being unavailable for Maroons selection.
Fifita featured as the Maroons’ bench second-rower in Game Two of this year’s series and would likely be replaced by Jaydn Su’A, who filled the slot in Game One.
Fifita (L) must face the judiciary this week if he want to play in Origin III. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
The outlook isn’t so bleak for Fifita’s Queensland compatriot Valentine Holmes, who escaped suspension for his dangerous tackle on Newcastle’s Kalyn Ponga.
Holmes made late contact with his opposite number’s neck in the dying minutes of the Cowboys’ loss on Saturday, sparking concern he too would join the long list of Maroons unavailable for the final game of the Origin series.
The tackle left Ponga in agony, forcing him from the field for the contest’s final minutes.
“It was one of the more dangerous ones (crusher tackles) I’ve seen. It was ugly,” said 2004 Premiership-winner Braith Anasta after the game
“(Queensland Origin coach) Paul Green has just gone, ‘Hang on a second, if there’s any charge, a crusher tackle, you’re gone’,” added Fox League’s Andrew Voss.
“He’s in trouble, Holmes,” agreed Anasta.
Referee Chris Sutton put Holmes on report for the tackle but on Sunday morning, the NRL’s match review committee classified the tackle as “Dangerous Contact – Head/Neck” rather than a crusher tackle.
With the early guilty plea, Holmes can accept a $1,350 fine but risks coughing up $1,800 should he unsuccessfully dispute the charge at the judiciary.
Despite looking in pain after the tackle, Kalyn Ponga is confident he will line up for the Maroons in Origin III.
“It’s a bit stiff at the moment but I will put ice on it and I’ll be alright,” he said of his neck after the tackle
“Hopefully I will be out there (for Queensland).”
It will be Ponga’s first appearance at state level since 2019 after a cruel run of injuries ruled him out of both last year’s post-season series and the first two games of the 2021 triptych.
Ponga’s inclusion in the side is set to push Holmes onto the wing, with either Xavier Coates or Kyle Feldt likely to drop out of the starting 17.
After the Blues cruised to victory in the first two games of the series, the Maroons are now focusing their energy on avoiding a whitewash for the first time since 2000.
Game Three is scheduled for Sydney’s Stadium Austraila but as the Harbour City continues to report locally acquired cases of Covid-19, the fixture may be relocated.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro has held talks with ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys about moving the game to Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium — the Knights’ home ground.
It would be the first game in Origin history to be held in the Hunter and would make 2021 the first series with only one game played in a state capital city.
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