Cronulla front-rower Andrew Fifita is "absolutely gutted" after being suspended for three games, 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 next two games against 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 said he was shattered not to be able to line up for the Mate Ma'a at Mt Smart Stadium this weekend.
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"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 Melbourne star Billy Slater beat a shoulder charge claim 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 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.
Judiciary counsel Anthony Lo Surdo said the tackle on Sutton was all-but complete and there was no need for Fifita to involve himself.
Lo Surdo contended that Fifita had been highly careless, resulting in excessive pressure on Sutton's neck, while the Raiders player was in a vulnerable position with no ability to protect himself.
He said he didn't need to remind the panel of the potentially catastrophic consequences of such tackles.
"We play a contact sport," Fifita said. "I'm a front rower and like to throw my body weight around, and I need to.
"I'm sorry, but that's what kind of sport we're in."
Ghabar was unsuccessful in trying to convince the panel Fifita's tackle was any worse than a crusher tackle of Latrell Mitchell's last year on Cronulla centre Josh Dugan that was deemed to have been a grade-one offence.
But veteran Warriors forward Adam Blair escaped suspension, after beating a dangerous contact charge, when he was sin-binned for a late tackle on Gold Coast five-eighth Tyrone Roberts last Friday night.
Join us at 5:40pm Saturday for live updates of the NZ Kiwis v Tonga rugby league test