Rugby league world erupts over Billy Slater 'disgrace'

Fans and experts have been left divided over the NRL judiciary’s decision to give Billy Slater a grand final reprieve.

Slater’s dream of bowing out with a premiership is alive again after overturning a shoulder charge citing in a mammoth three-hour judiciary hearing on Tuesday.

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In arguably the biggest judiciary case of the NRL era, an anxious Slater took centre stage as he pleaded his case on why his career shouldn’t end with a shoulder charge ban.

Both sides argued for two hours before Slater was made to sweat another 54 minutes before the three-person panel of Mal Cochrane, Bob Lindner and Sean Garlick found Slater not guilty.

Understandably, the decision left fans and a number of pundits fuming.

Billy Slater arrives with Craig Bellamy ahead of his judiciary hearing. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Rugby league journo Paul Crawley said the judiciary’s call was “disappointing.”

“I’m not surprised (by the decision) but it does disappoint you because the rule is the rule,” he said on NRL 360.

“Whether or not you agree with it… the rule is the rule. And we’ve changed the rule in grand final week so that Billy can play.

“How do we walk away from the season feeling?”

Fellow journo Paul Kent said the decision has set a dangerous precedent.

“This now goes into the game as a precedent, as a not guilty decision,” he said.

“This is now a legal tackle in the game.”

Billy Slater waits for the start of his judiciary hearing. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Nick Tedeschi of The Guardian said the verdict was a “knee-jerk farce”.

“The greater issue at play is that yet another reactionary and knee-jerk decision by the game’s leadership has hurt the reputation of rugby league and made a mockery of the sport they are supposed to lead,” he wrote.

However veteran journo Phil Rothfield agreed with the decision to let Billy play.

“For the NRL it was always going to be a no-win scenario,” he wrote.

“Although this is one the game got right. Billy Slater deserves to play.”

And Christian Nicolussi of the Sydney Morning Herald agreed.

“Yes. Common sense prevails,” he tweeted.

“Billy Slater is a smart dude who spoke with confidence. I really have become a convert.”

Fans and other experts were also heavily divided.

How Slater and lawyer won over the judiciary

Slater twice got up in front of the panel to demonstrate how Sosaia Feki’s step had resulted in the 35-year-old taking evasive action to avoid dangerous contact with the Cronulla winger.

He claimed that despite the collision, his right hand was the first point of contact and his left hand had attempted to grab Feki’s right arm.

He also suggested Feki cocked his elbow prior to the collision, forcing Slater to turn his body, and that it was the force from his hip that cannoned the Sharks player over the sideline.

“I’ve still got a tenderness on my hip today and it was four days ago. That was the force of the hips colliding,” Slater said during the hearing.

The controversial decision is likely to ignite further debate on the shoulder charge, with former Kangaroos captain Brad Fittler claiming the ruling would set a precedent prior to the hearing.

with AAP