Billy Slater at the judiciary on Tuesday.

All the action as it happened from Tuesday night's judiciary hearing as Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater successfully challenged his shoulder-charge suspension in a bid to be able to play in Sunday's NRL grand final.

10:23pm: That's it for the live blog tonight, here's how NRL.com reporters Michael Chammas and Katie Brown viewed the dramatic events from the judiciary.

10pm: Storm CEO Dave Donaghy has posted on Twitter to praise the team effort the club put in to achieve its goal of clearing Slater's name.

9pm: "I'd just like to thank the judiciary members for a fair hearing," Slater says after the verdict.

"It was important for me tonight to get my point across, and what my intentions were in this incident.

"Now it's important for me to focus on the game. I haven't started my preparations for the game yet so that starts now.

"I'd also like to thank Nick (Ghabar), my lawyer, and the club, the Melbourne Storm. They've really helped me over the last four days to put this case together, so now it's time to think about the grand final."

 

Billy Slater has been found not guilty and will play in the 2018 #NRLGF. He addresses the media as Katie Brown and Michael Chammas recap the judiciary hearing. Details - http://bit.ly/SlaterCleared

Posted by NRL - National Rugby League on Tuesday, 25 September 2018

8.48pm: Billy Slater drops his head with a massive sigh of relief! One more game.

There are some brave Melbourne Storm fans outside in the cold waiting to celebrate with Billy.

8.45pm: Billy Slater found NOT GUILTY. He is free to play in Sunday's grand final. Full story to come.

8.44pm: All parties have been summoned back into the room for the verdict after a mammoth minute deliberation. Is this it? Is the career of the great Billy Slater over? Or does he get a shot at a fairytale farewell?

8.43pm: In 2008, when Cameron Smith fronted the judiciary in a bid to play in the grand final, it took just 17 minutes for a guilt verdict to be handed down against Smith for a grapple tackle on Sam Thaiday.

We are now at 53 minutes and counting.

8.35pm: While we wait, it's incredible to think of how much homework Billy Slater puts into his preparation. He admitted in the hearing that he watched every single try of Cronulla wingers Sosaia Feki and Edrick Lee this year to prepare himself for the preliminary final against the Sharks. Love him or hate him, there's no denying his greatness.

8.25pm: For those wondering if this is normal for a deliberation, it took the panel 12 minutes to find Latrell Mitchell guilty a couple of weeks ago. We're now at almost 40 minutes.

8.15pm: We've gone past 20 minutes now. The suspense must be killing Billy Slater. This is one of the longer deliberations I can remember. Is the panel split?

The longer this goes you suspect the worse it is for Billy. Appears as though they are going through all three questions that were asked of them.

8.05pm: Extensive deliberations going on amongst the judiciary panel members. Almost 15 minutes of deliberation.

8pm: It's been 10 minutes of deliberation. We're still waiting.

7.50pm: Slater has not stopped looking at Geoff Bellew in his 10-plus minute address to the judiciary panel members. He looks very concerned to say the least but expected given what is at stake.

All parties and media have been asked to leave the room. The judiciary panel will now reach its position. 

7.42pm: Judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew has asked panel members to consider the following.

"1. Was there forceful contact with the shoulder or upper arm? Bellew says if your answer is no, then he is not guilty.

"If you answer yes you need to consider: 2. Was the forceful contact made without Slater using or attempting to use both his arms including his hands to tackle or otherwise take hold of the opposing player.

"3. Was Slater's conduct careless? I remind you he is charged with a careless act, not an intentional act."

7.35pm: Bellew has recalled everyone, and is telling the panel members that the emotion around Slater and the fact it's a grand final on the line needs to be completely irrelevant in their determination.

7.30pm: Meanwhile in other breaking NRL news, the North Queensland Cowboys have signed former Dally M winner Ben Barba for the 2019 season.

7.25pm: Judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew has just asked the members of the panel to leave the room, along with the members of the press, to address both parties.

7.20pm: "It could not be said that player Slater was careless for not getting his left arm in any other position," says Ghabar.

Slater's representative is making a couple of key points. Firstly that initial contact in the tackle was made with Slater's pec, not his shoulder. Secondly that Feki changed his direction which meant Slater had no alternative - given his speed - than to make the contact he did.

"Could anything different be done? You will find this situation was handled in the safest possible manner maintaining a duty of care to himself, player Feki and his team.

"What else could he have done?

"Is he (NRL counsel Anthony Lo Surdo) seriously suggesting player Slater let him run over him? Or let him score?"

7.13pm: Slater's lawyer Nick Ghabar talks the judiciary panel through the tackle.

"Player Feki is carrying the ball with both hands then puts the ball in his left hand. Player Feki's eyes and head has turned at this point to look directly at Slater and moves towards him. A collision is now imminent."

7.07pm: Ghabar highlights Slater's evidence that initial contact in the tackle was made with his pec. "If you accept that evidence it's powerful. It ends the hearing."

7.05pm: "The rule only requires an attempt, the rule does not require a successful attempt": Slater's lawyer Nick Ghabar on the definition of a shoulder charge.

Here is that definition.

Under the 2018 NRL rules, a shoulder is defined as "where a defender does not use, or attempt to use, his arms (including his hands) to tackle or otherwise take hold of the opposing player and the contact is forceful. It will be considered misconduct, if any player affects a tackle in the manner as defined."

7pm: Anthony Lo Surdo finishes his case. Slater's lawyer Nick Ghabar is up now. The hearing has now been running for just over an hour.

Ghabar begins his case to the panel: "What I'm putting to you - this is a situation where a player did not make a conscious decision to use his shoulder.

"The initial contact was on his left pec. It didn't include his left shoulder. He told you the contact was with the left pec.

"I have no doubt that what sent Feki three or four metres over the sideline was the hips colliding.

"This is not a traditional, if there is a type of thing, shoulder charge. This is not a traditional shoulder charge where players are running directly at each other and players have set themselves. You need to pay specific attention to the angles provided to you."

6.55pm: "The right arm had to go somewhere and that was the most natural position for the arm to be given he was travelling at such speed": NRL counsel Anthony Lo Surdo continues to argue that no attempt was made by Slater to wrap his arm around Feki in the tackle, and that "he had an option" to do so.

"There was an inevitably there was going to be contact. Whether it was going to be a lawful tackle or unlawful tackle ... he had an option."

6.48pm: Both lawyers are now fronting the panel with still images to explain their positions. Anthony Lo Surdo is arguing there was no wrapping attempt while Slater's lawyer Nick Ghabar listens on. Slater and Storm coach Craig Bellamy exchange words at their table.

6.45pm: The lawyer representing Billy Slater is Nick Ghabar. Ghabar is the same lawyer who helped clear Justin Hodges to play in the 2015 grand final for Brisbane against the Cowboys after a dangerous throw on Aidan Guerra.

6.38pm: NRL counsel Anthony Lo Surdo is now looking at slow motion footage of Slater's arms.

"Your left forearm and hand comes up under Feki's right arm. It's very difficult to tell but it doesn't appear to me that's an action of a wrap or attempt to wrap."

Slater: "I disagree with that."

Slater is making a strong case so far. Very confident in his explanations and not afraid to voice them.

No further questions for Slater from Anthony Lo Surdo.

Billy Slater and Craig Bellamy at Slater's judiciary hearing.
Billy Slater and Craig Bellamy at Slater's judiciary hearing. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

6.31pm: Anthony Lo Surdo cross-examines Slater's take on the tackle: "That's what you intended to do but that's not what happened. What you intended to do and what you ended up doing are two different things.

"There was no attempt to wrap both arms was there?"

"I disagree with that," Slater says. Slater also disagrees with Anthony Lo Surdo's assertion that Feki didn't change direction.

6.25pm: Slater insists he was attempting to wrap his arms around Feki while making the tackle.

"The whole time my intention was to make a tackle. It happens earlier than I expected to do but I'm still attempting to wrap my right arm. Even with my left arm is trying to wrap underneath. I was still trying to get my body in a position to get between the ball and the try line," he says.

"I've got a duty to make a tackle, the duty of care is to myself and player Feki. To ensure I don't make a high tackle is a duty to Feki. I feel the contact that was made was unavoidable once he veered back in. I think the decisions I made ensured the safest possible contact was made."

6.22pm: Slater continues: "You can see the motion of my running is natural and it's not until now (close to contact) that I have to protect myself slightly with my left shoulder.

"His right shoulder is flush up on my pec and makes contact with my jaw. I felt my jaw flush up against his right shoulder.

"The reason for the speed I was travelling wasn't to create force in the collision, it was to effect a tackle.

"I've still got a tenderness on my hip today and it was four days ago. That was the force of the hips colliding."

6.16pm: Billy Slater continues on his mindset ahead of the tackle: "At the time I realised that Sosaia was 10 metres away from the corner post, I felt that I was a little bit further away from the corner post than he was. I know I have to get there and my intention is to make a ball and all tackle to get my body between the ball and try line.

"When he plants that left foot his intention changes from going directly to the corner post to going directly at me. My shoulders and my feet are heading directly to that corner post. He changes and this puts me in a vulnerable position."

Slater stands up and tries to help the panel visualise what he is thinking.

"By him veering back towards me the contact has happened a metre or two metres before I anticipated.

"He's raised his right elbow so I've protected myself with my left side of the body but I've turned my head to avoid his elbow. If I'm not going 33kmh I'm going somewhere near it and I have two metres to make a decision."

Billy Slater at his judiciary hearing on Tuesday night.
Billy Slater at his judiciary hearing on Tuesday night. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

6.10pm: "I prepare pretty thoroughly in all of my games," says Slater. "I try and understand patterns in attack. I look for individuals and what foot they step off and what hand they carry the ball."

Slater claims he watched footage of every try scored by Sharks wingers Feki and Edrick Lee in the lead-up to game. He says Feki pinned his ears back and went for the corner in all eight tries.

"I knew that he likes to back himself and go for the corner post."

6.08pm: Slater's lawyer Nick Ghabar is showing some still images of the tackle. They highlight Slater's right arm in contact with Feki.

6.05pm: All angles available, in full speed and in slow motion, are being shown. Slater is watching on.

6pm: And we're off. The hearing has commenced. We should know in the next hour or so if Slater will be free to play in the grand final.

Billy Slater ahead of his judiciary hearing on Tuesday night.
Billy Slater ahead of his judiciary hearing on Tuesday night. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

5.59pm: Slater looks pensive as photographers get their last photos before the beginning of the hearing.

5.55pm: If Billy Slater's career was to officially end tonight, he will finish with 318 NRL appearances, 190 tries, 173 try assists, 262 line breaks, a 70.4 per cent win rate and an average of 171 running metres per game. He's played in six grand finals for the Storm and won two premierships. Not to mention the 30 Test matches and 27 tries for Australia. The 31 State of Origin appearances and 12 tries for Queensland. He's also a two-time Wally Lewis Medal winner for player of the Origin series. He's also claimed two Clive Churchill medals and a Dally M medal. In 2008 he was awarded the Golden Boot Award.

The media awaits Billy Slater's judiciary hearing at Rugby League Central.
The media awaits Billy Slater's judiciary hearing at Rugby League Central. ©Katie Brown

5.40pm: Former Sydney Roosters captain Sean Garlick has just been confirmed as the third member of the panel. The panel tonight will be Sean Garlick, Bob Lindner and Mal Cochrane.

5.37pm: Mal Cochrane has also arrived at Rugby League Central. He's panel member No.2. It appears Slater's former teammate Dallas Johnson, who had been used on the judiciary panel this year, isn't going to be one of the three members tonight.

5.35pm: Looks like Queensland's Bob Lindner will be one of the judiciary panel members tonight. He's just arrived at Rugby League Central.

5.30pm: Billy Slater is locked away inside a room at Rugby League Central. He touched down in Sydney this afternoon after boarding a private jet from Melbourne. It's expected he will jump back on that private jet at the conclusion of tonight's hearing.

5.25pm: Only one other player this year has decided to fight a shoulder charge at the judiciary. North Queensland's Matt Scott pleaded not guilty to a shoulder charge on Melbourne's Young Tonumaipea in round 12. However he was unable to overturn the decision and as a consequence was banned for two games.

5.15pm: The Storm are expected to argue Slater was bracing for impact and had no other choice but to make an unconventional tackle to deny Feki a try. Read our full breakdown on the club's strategy here

5pm: Billy Slater arrives early for his 6pm hearing. The Storm fullback, coach Craig Bellamy and chief executive Dave Donaghy presented a united front when they made their way into Rugby League Central at Moore Park, wearing matching suits and ties.

 

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