ANTHONY MINICHIELLO will be free to make his 250th appearance for the Sydney Roosters on Sunday after being cleared of a grade three striking charge at the NRL judiciary yesterday.
The former NSW and Australia fullback was sent off last Saturday against Canberra after catching Raiders custodian Josh Dugan with a forearm to the face in the 75th minute of the match.
Minichiello, who had never been suspended or appeared in front of the judiciary panel in his 13-year career, was facing a three-match ban, which would have ended his season, had be been found guilty.
However, had the 32-year-old been charged with dangerous contact or a careless high tackle offence, he would almost certainly have been suspended.
His counsel, James McLeod, successfully argued that his client's actions were not strong enough to warrant a striking offence, where deliberate intent has to be proven.
The panel, made up of Michael Buettner, Don McKinnon and Mal Cochrane, took 30 minutes to make their decision after Minichiello had argued his clean record should work in his favour.
''I have played the game a long time and never been sent off, '' Minichiello told the hearing.
''I am a fair player and truly believe it wasn't reckless, it was careless on my behalf. I tried to make a wrapping tackle on Dugan, I was braced for a collision as the left arm was up for a fend.''
Peter Kite, for the NRL, said because Minichiello jumped up to tackle Dugan and caught him around the head, it showed it was pre-meditated.
''We come to the view that in the sequences shown on the screen, that he knew what he was going to do,'' Kite said.
Minichiello will now be free to make his milestone appearance for the Roosters against Wests Tigers on Sunday.
''It's a fantastic outcome for myself and the club,'' he said.