A cannonball and crusher tackle in successive weeks will cost Latrell Mitchell a place in a preliminary final and possibly end the season of Sydney Roosters' star centre unless he can have the latest charge overthrown by the judiciary.
Mitchell is facing a one-match ban even with an early guilty plea after being cited for a tackle on Josh Dugan during the Roosters' thrilling victory over Cronulla in Saturday night's qualifying final at Allianz Stadium.
The Roosters and NSW State of Origin centre is now set to miss the grand final qualifier in a fortnight unless he can have the charge thrown out.
The 21-year-old was hit with a grade-one charge for dangerous contact to the neck/head over the 42-minute incident that led Dugan to stay down on the ground clutching his neck.
The 75 carryover points Mitchell accrued for a cannonball tackle on Parramatta captain Clint Gutherson in the final game of the regular season ended up proving costly, tipping him over the threshold for a one-match suspension.
The only positive is that he effectively has a free hit at the judiciary because even if he fights the charge and loses he would not be risking any more than a game and putting a potential grand final appearance in jeopardy.
The absence of Mitchell would be a signficant setback for the minor premiers. He has been outstanding for the Roosters this season and is second on the NRL's list of point scorers with 228.
The Roosters will also be without prop Dylan Napa, banned last month, for the preliminary final but hope to at least have front-rower Sio Siua Taukeiaho available after scans showed he had only suffered an ankle sprain in the grand final qualifier.
The ban comes as Melbourne's Will Chambers prepares to return for the Storm's preliminary final after serving a three-match ban for a crusher tackle of his own on Jarryd Hayne last month.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson did not believe Mitchell had a case to answer after Saturday night's win, suggesting Dugan had feigned injury by staying down.
"I think you can’t look at the actions of the player [Dugan] on that,” Robinson said.
“If they’re going to go off, then fine, but you can play for penalties at different times as well. That's up to someone else [to decide]."
Mitchell's absence would not only leave a big hole in the Roosters' backline but presents an issue for them in terms of goalkicking.
Taukeiaho is the back-up to Mitchell and will assume duties if fit, while Blake Ferguson would be next in line.
"He would be a big loss if he didn't play," Roosters fullback James Tedesco said of Mitchell. "He's been a strike [player] for us all year, he's been outstanding. He's our goalkicker as well."
Meanwhile, Tedesco continued his startling form when he ran for 227 metres, had seven tackle busts and two try assists on Saturday night, including a lovely cut-out pass for Daniel Tupou to score.
It wasn't a bad effort for one of the game's superstars who was playing in his first ever finals match.
"It was like an Origin game, end-to-end footy and a lot of carries out of our own end," Tedesco said. "It was a pretty tough challenge but I enjoyed it."
Tedesco said he and Ferguson often looked at each other's run metres and wanted to do better.
"I think he nearly hit 300m last week, and I was like, 'I wouldn't mind getting 300m'," Tedesco said.
"It's all in good fun. It is not something I go out and look for. Playing in this team it's not hard [to clock big metres]. You have people like Fergo and 'Toops' getting quick play-the-balls, and it makes it easy for me to run off the back of that.
"All I am doing is supporting them up the middle. There are guys in our team who are powerful and strong and create those quick play-the-balls pretty much every set, and I'm just backing that - when I see those quick play-the-balls I'm off."
Tedesco's teammate Luke Keary was full of praise for the No.1 and glad he was on his side in September.
"You can't tackle him. He doesn't even run hard at training. I don't think he's put the foot on the gas in the gym," Keary said.
"I haven't seen anyone move so laterally. He falls over half the time, but he's powerful off both feet. He's 100kg. He's just so powerful.
"To have players like Teddy, even blokes like Fergo, you know what you'll get every week. With Teddy, you'll get a very high level and it gives you confidence in yourself. You see it in the good teams, you'll know what you get from the bigger players. He does it every week."