Rugby League

Michael Ennis still in the dark about State of Origin prospects after judiciary disappointment

Michael Ennis said he has "no idea" about his prospects of a State of Origin recall after failing to earn a downgrade on a careless high tackle charge at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night.

Ennis, who is on standby for incumbent Robbie Farah (broken hand) as he races the clock to be fit for the series-deciding clash at Suncorp Stadium, was stifled in his initial attempt to end a four-year State of Origin exile at Rugby League Central.

In strife: Cronulla hooker Michael Ennis is placed on report against the Cowboys.
In strife: Cronulla hooker Michael Ennis is placed on report against the Cowboys. Photo: Getty Images

The judiciary panel of Don McKinnon, Chris McKenna and Bronson Harrison took just six minutes to uphold the grade-one charge on Ennis for his hit on Cowboys winger Matthew Wright in Townsville on Saturday night.

But if NSW consider exploiting a loophole in Ennis serving his one-game ban for the Sharks in their clash with Manly at Brookvale this weekend, the veteran No.9 could still be eligible for the Blues in game three.

Asked about what it means for his Origin chances, Ennis said: "I've got no idea on that side of things. My mindset tonight was just Cronulla and this weekend.

"We got a good hearing in there, but things didn't go to plan. It's just disappointing I won't be there on Sunday with the boys, but I'll be back for the St George [Illawarra] game in a fortnight.

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"My focus tonight was all about Cronulla and trying to be available to play there at Brookvale on Sunday."

The panel heard submissions from Ennis and his legal counsel, who argued the initial contact was made by the hooker's right pectoral on Wright's shoulder before a "whiplash" motion forced Ennis' upper arm to contact the head.

Ennis' legal representative, Nick Ghabar, described the tackle as being worthy of a penalty, but claimed the initial contact was "innocuous and glancing ... it wasn't forceful".

"I think he's more stunned by the force of my pec on his shoulder than what my little biceps could do to him," Ennis said. "I was trying to manage the tackle carefully. My intended point of contact is the ball and I strongly believe there was nothing else I could have done in the situation.

"I make an average of 40 tackles per game and 90 per cent are these types of tackles. That technique I've used for 13 years and I feel I've mastered it."

The former Bulldogs skipper also asked the judiciary counsel to consider the immediate reaction of referee Gavin Reynolds, who was shown on one of the camera angles to clearly tap his shoulder after pleas for a penalty from the Cowboys players.

The decision was later reversed after the video referee viewed vision of the tackle.

Ennis and Ghabar also claimed the hooker followed "every guideline" in ensuring the safety of Wright in the tackle after Sharks back-rower Jayson Bukuya had gone in low on the ball carrier.

But judiciary counsel Peter McGrath, while conceding there was no intent in the tackle, said Wright's head had "not dropped clearly at all at the point of impact".

Ennis only landed at the judiciary to fight the grading and avoid suspension after carryover points from a charge stemming from round two where he made contact with referee Ben Cummins in Cronulla's loss to Brisbane.

Despite the hit on Wright, Ennis was the catalyst in the Sharks' come-from-behind win over the top-of-the-table Cowboys in Townsville.

The last of the 31-year-old's seven Origin appearances came in the 2011 series – in which he played all three games – before surrendering the spot to Farah the following year.

Farah was initially denied clearance to fly to Coffs Harbour and join the Blues squad on Wednesday after surgery on his broken hand on Tuesday night, but was later given the green light.

Melbourne utility Ryan Hinchcliffe and Bulldog Josh Reynolds have been in camp with NSW to fill the dummy-half role, while Blues officials awaited the outcome of Ennis' hearing and Farah's recovery.

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