ARL Commission chairman John Grant has defended the decision to take tougher action on the eve of the finals against tacklers whose shoulder makes contact with the head of an opponent as Cronulla's Ben Pomeroy prepares to face the judiciary tonight.
Pomeroy will become the first player referred to the tribunal on a dangerous contact charge since the ARLC last week announced the crackdown on shoulder charges and is expected to receive a season ending ban if he is found guilty.
The Sharks officially advised the NRL yesterday that Pomeroy would contest the charge but they have no idea how long his ban will be if unsuccessful as the ARLC announced that all precedents would be wiped.
As a result, neither Pomeroy's defence counsel nor NRL prosecutor Peter Kite will be able to compare the incident in last Sunday's match to shoulder charges gone wrong by Brisbane's Ben Teo and South Sydney's Greg Inglis.
Teo received a two-match ban for his round six hit on Wests Tigers prop Matt Groat, while Inglis was suspended for three games for his recent tackle on St George Illawarra's Dean Young but it is believed the commissioners felt stiffer penalties should have been imposed.
Should Pomeroy be found guilty of a grade two dangerous contact, which carries a base penalty of 250 demerit points, he will receive a three-match ban as the Sharks centre has 75 carryover points from a previous judiciary offence that would also make him liable for 20 per cent loading.
A higher grading would rule Pomeroy out of the grand final if the Sharks were to qualify.
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan, Melbourne's Craig Bellamy, North Queensland's Neil Henry and Manly's Geoff Toovey all criticised the decision to change the way shoulder charges are dealt with mid-season, but Grant said player safety was a greater concern.
''There's no timing too early to avoid injury,'' Grant said yesterday.
With the repercussions of head injuries an increasingly worrying issue in contact sports, the ARLC earlier this year introduced strict new guidelines for club doctors on how to deal with concussed players and has instigated a review into shoulder charges, which is being conducted by former Sydney Roosters chief executive Brian Canavan.
The review is not due to be finalised until the end of the season but after receiving an update last week, the ARLC ordered the match review committee to refer any shoulder charge which makes contact with the head of an opponent directly to the judiciary on an ungraded charge.
''Management updated the Commission on the review that's underway and in the ensuing conversation, given our regard for player safety, we sought management's view as to what actions could be taken in the interim to as much as possible to remove the risk associated with the shoulder charge,'' Grant said. ''Hence the decision, which is not a change in the rules of the game.''