Gutted Fifita banned at NRL Judiciary

Andrew Fifita will miss Tonga's Test with New Zealand and two NRL games due to suspension.
Andrew Fifita will miss Tonga's Test with New Zealand and two NRL games due to suspension.

Just as Cronulla looked to put their injury crisis behind them, they'll have to contend with missing forward enforcer Andrew Fifita through suspension for two crucial NRL games.

Fifita admitted to being "absolutely gutted" after being rubbed out for three weeks after failing to have a dangerous contact charge downgraded at the NRL judiciary.

Fifita will miss Tonga's Test against New Zealand in Auckland on Saturday as well as Cronulla's upcoming clashes with Canterbury and Brisbane after being found guilty of a grade two crusher tackle on Canberra prop Ryan Sutton.

Having turned his back on Australia to represent Tonga, the former NSW State of Origin and Kangaroos Test prop is shattered not to be able to line up for the Mate Ma'a at Mt Smart Stadium this weekend.

"Absolutely gutted I can't play this week," Fifita posted on Instagram.

But the firebrand prop only has himself to blame after committing a costly faux pas at Tuesday night's tribunal hearing.

Represented by Nick Ghabar, the Sydney lawyer who famously helped Billy Slater beat a shoulder charge claim against him that allowed the Melbourne superstar to play in last year's grand final, Fifita gave evidence via a video link from Auckland.

Fifita pleaded guilty but disputed the grade two charge, arguing he was only trying to prevent Sutton from attempting a quick play the ball after noticing he was "already on his hands and knees" after being tackled around the legs by Cronulla hooker Blayke Brailey.

He said, as a front rower, that was his job.

"When you wrestle, that's what you're meant to do," Fifita said.

"I felt like I had to put my body weight on him just to slow the ruck down and and get our players (time to get) back on side."

Alas, judiciary chairman Geoff Bellow advised the panel of Mal Cochrane, Bob Lindner and Sean Garlick to disregard much of Fifita's defence, saying trying to prevent a quick play the ball didn't relieve him of any culpability.

Losing Fifita is a heavy blow for the Sharks, who had climbed to the cusp of the top four after being without Wade Graham, Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan and Paul Gallen for much of the first half of the season.

Graham, Johnson, Moylan and Gallen are all back on deck, but Fifita won't be available until Cronulla's round-17 showdown with the Storm in Melbourne.

But veteran Warriors forward Adam Blair escaped suspension on Tuesday night after beating a dangerous contact charge after being sin-binned for a late tackle on Gold Coast five-eighth Tyrone Roberts.

Australian Associated Press