The Penrith Panthers continued their impressive start to the 2022 season last night, downing the Brisbane Broncos 40-12.
Now 6-0, and atop the NRL ladder, the Panthers had plenty to celebrate.
However, hanging over the celebrations at BlueBet Stadium was the uncertainty surrounding Panthers superstar Nathan Cleary's eligibility to play next Sunday against the Canberra Raiders.
With just 14 minutes to go in the match yesterday, Cleary found himself in a grapple tackle with halves counterpart Billy Walters. Cleary struggled with Walters for a second before extending his leg out and leveraging the Broncos half to the ground by tripping him over.
Re Nathan Cleary tackle - definitely not a classic hip drop by definition. As almost* always intent not there but more importantly poor technique that resulted in ⬆️ risk of injury for ball carrier. Almost as much awkward as dangerous though which may save him pic.twitter.com/eXOdPCzQas
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) April 15, 2022
Directly following the incident, Cleary knew he'd placed Walters in a dangerous position during the phases of the tackle as he checked to see if his counterpart wasn't seriously injured.
The charges have now been handed down by the NRL's Match Review Committee (MRC) and the Panthers superstar has been hit with a Grade 1 Dangerous Contact, which will result in just a $1500 fine ($1000 if he takes an early plea).
In the aftermath of the incident, NRL pundits and officials were left puzzled - questioning how exactly you categorise this tackle and whether it was actually dangerous or just the result of awkward technique.
“They are only new to the game, we don’t really have certain cases where they are black and white for us,” NRL legend Gordon Tallis said on Fox League's panel following the game.
“It has only just come in and it doesn’t look like the others, he looked like he tried to trap his legs.
“The players are doing it to each other, all these wrestling moves.”
Sitting with him on the panel, Greg Alexander provided clarity on the move as a potential hip-drop but understood that it wasn't going to be that simple.
“That is not a hip-drop, a hip-drop is where your weight comes from behind and lands on the back of the legs of the player,” Alexander said.
“He has used his leg as leverage, you know to drag Billy (Walters) back over his leg,” Alexander added.
“Billy got up and played the ball, thank goodness.”
The MRC has also made decisions on two other incidents that took place during last night's doubleheader.
The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldog's Brandon Wakeham was charged with a Grade 1 Crusher Tackle ($1500 fine or $1000 fine with an early plea) following a late-game blunder on South Sydney Rabbitoh's forward Tom Burgess.
And, the Broncos' Kobe Hetherington was charged with Grade 1 Contrary Conduct on Panthers Jarome Luai, which carries a $1500 fine or $1000 fine with an early plea.