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Titans skipper cleared at NRL judiciary

NZN 27/03/2017 Scott Bailey

Gold Coast captain Ryan James is free to play the Warriors on Sunday after being cleared of a shoulder charge by the NRL judiciary.

James was facing a two-game suspension after being cited for a first-half hit on North Queensland's Patrick Kaufusi in the Titans' 32-26 loss on Saturday.

James' left upper arm and shoulder appeared to make contact with the Cowboys' player's head in a messy three-way collision with Kaufusi and co-tackler Jarrod Wallace.

However the Titans forward argued in a 40-minute hearing on Tuesday night that he was off-balance and merely trying to protect himself from Wallace, who he collided with.

James, represented by Titans chief executive Graham Annesley, also contended the contact was minimal and that his position was natural of any player quickly preparing for an unexpected impact.

"It was consequential of the momentum of all three players involved in the tackle and it was nothing more than glancing contact," Annesley said.

Annesley's submission also argued James showed no intent of trying to make a shoulder charge, but judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew reminded the three-man panel that mattered little.

"The player is not charged with intentionally making a shoulder charge," Bellew said.

"He's charged with making it carelessly."

The counsel for the NRL, Peter McGrath, put forward that James had not tried to make a wrapping ball-and-all tackle as he had claimed, judging by the stiffness of his left arm.

"At no stage have you any intention of raising your arm at all to grab the ball player," McGrath said.

For a player to be found guilty of a shoulder charge, there must be forceful contact that is generated by the charged player, in a careless manner with no intention to use both arms.

But the judiciary panel - ex-players Sean Garlick, Mal Cochrane and Tony Puletua - ruled there was not enough evidence to suspend James on those grounds.

James would have missed one match had he pleaded guilty to the offence, but said after the hearing he immediately knew it was a worthwhile risk to fight it.

"You never go in to make a shoulder charge because you know what you're going to get," he said.

"We knew as soon as it happened that we were going to come down and fight it."

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