ANGRY Storm players demanded to know why Canterbury forward James Graham wasn't sent off in yesterday's grand final over an alleged bite that drew blood from Billy Slater's left ear.
Slater had two small marks near the top of his ear where the bleeding had been coming from when interviewed in the dressing room and Graham is expected to face a suspension of more than eight matches if found guilty of biting.
However, Melbourne players questioned referee Tony Archer about why Graham was only placed on report over the 26th-minute incident and allowed to play a starring role for the Bulldogs in the 14-4 loss.
Fight club ... James Graham appears to bite the ear of Billy Slater during a brawl. Photo: Channel 9
Players and officials from both sides were reluctant to comment on the allegations after the match but Storm captain Cameron Smith confirmed he had asked Archer why Graham was not sent off.
''I spoke to the referee about it and Tony explained it to me,'' Smith said. ''We can't control what the referee's decisions are so we just played on.''
Asked what Slater had said on the field, Smith said: ''Bill came to me and said that he felt that he was bitten. That was what he felt.''
2012 NRL Grand Final
Ryan Hoffman scores the first try for the Melbourne Storm. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Video replays appeared to support Slater's accusation and Archer said blood could be seen coming from Slater's ear. Smith told Archer: ''The last player that bit someone got 18 weeks.''
However, Graham was saved the ignominy of being the first player given his marching orders in a grand final since Canterbury's Phil Sigsworth in 1986.
After being questioned about the decision by Slater and Smith, Archer told them: ''The incident is on report. That is all I can do. I haven't got enough evidence.''
Smith said last night he accepted Archer's explanation, while Slater repeatedly offered ''no comment'' when asked about the incident.
However, when asked on the field if he wanted to make a formal complaint against Graham, Slater said: ''F---ing oath. He bit me.''
Archer then said to fellow referee Ben Cummins: ''You see the incident, you see the blood on the ear, everyone has seen that. That incident is on report.''
Graham did not react as he stood with Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis listening to Archer.
Canterbury coach Des Hasler and Ennis refused to comment on the issue but a Bulldogs insider said teammates were shocked as it is considered out of character for Graham. The Bulldogs believe the Englishman, who has now played in seven successive grand finals in Super League and the NRL, was caught up in the heat of the moment and had a ''brain explosion''.
With former Canterbury forward Brad Morrin suspended for eight matches in 2007 for biting Parramatta's Timana Tahu, the Bulldogs are resigned to Graham receiving a lengthy suspension.Gold Coast fullback William Zillman was the last player suspended for biting when he received a four-match ban in 2009 for biting South Sydney's Jamie Simpson.
Any suspension will include two pre-season matches next year.
The match review committee will also study the entire incident that led to the biting allegation, with Canterbury players unhappy that Slater had slid into Sam Perrett as he crossed for a try.
Bulldogs centre Krisnan Inu took exception to the fullback's actions and the pair became embroiled in some push and shove before David Stagg grabbed Slater in a choker hold. The melee spilled over the sideline as more players became involved, with Jaiman Lowe making a bee line for Inu and Josh Reynolds and Sisa Waqa squaring up.
As he wrestled with Slater, Graham appeared to lunge towards the Test fullback, who immediately reeled away as he grabbed at his left ear.
''I think Perrett got over in the corner and Bill got a bit a shove and blokes came running in from everywhere, but that is out of our hands,'' Smith said. ''It doesn't concern us, we have just won a premiership. The match review committee will look at that and deal with it.''
Asked how his ear was, Slater said: ''It's fine, thanks.''