Star Melbourne Storm second-rower Felise Kaufusi has been cleared to represent the Maroons in Origin I after being found not guilty for tripping Jake Turpin in the Storm's win over the Broncos on Thursday night.
A tripping offence in the NRL is usually met with a fine, but it was Kaufusi's third offence of the season, meaning he was issued a one-match ban - a penalty that would have seen the forward miss the Origin opener on June 9th.
Yes, Fus! https://t.co/XxA6CqhVx4
— Melbourne Storm 🏆 (@storm) June 1, 2021
Kaufusi, and defense lawyer Nick Ghabar, argued to the tribunal that the 29-year-old did not make any contact with Turpin, and claimed that a 'sprawling technique' was used to get back to his feet as Turpin was trying to offload the ball.
"As a defender, you can see I just made that tackle on Tevita Pangai Jnr ... I'm thinking 'far out, he's just offloaded, I need to get up urgently'," Kaufusi told the tribunal.
"In transition I'm bringing my leg up to try and bring myself back to my feet ... it was in transition I then saw Jake Turpin and I brought my leg down.
"You want to make the tackle and if you do see an offload, my next job is to get up on my feet."
NRL counsel, Nick McGrath tried to argue that Kaufusi made contact and intentionally disrupted Turpin's running line, but the New Zealand born forward was quick to dispute this claim.
"Absolutely not," Kaufusi said.
"I don't know what you're seeing mate because there is no contact."
The tribunal panel deliberated for 15 minutes before coming to a decision of not guilty.
Former Queensland origin player, Ben Ikin, told Fox League's NRL 360 that he was stunned to see the ban cleared.
"As a Queenslander, I’m flabbergasted that he will be available for our team," the 17-time Origin representative said.
‘I’m flabbergasted’: Maroons legend Ben Ikin stunned as Felise Kaufusi dodges ban
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Even Queensland coach, Paul Green, admitted to the media on Monday that he wouldn't be surprised if Kaufusi was suspended, but hoped that "common sense prevails."
"People say he’s a repeat offender but you can’t hang a bloke for everything he’s done wrong," Green said.
"He’s got charged for tripping and I don’t think Turpin even fell over."
Kaufusi will go into the series opener being the most-capped forward in the northerner's squad with nine appearances, due to 18-time Maroons representative and star forward, Josh Papalii, missing through suspension.
The dual international's leadership will be key to Queensland's ambitions to retain the shield, with the squad also being bolstered with the news that Kaufusi's Storm teammate, Harry Grant, has been cleared of injury and will be available to play.
The Origin opener has been moved from the MCG to Townsville's Queensland Country Bank Stadium on June 9th due to Victoria's latest COVID outbreak.