NRL judiciary on Sia Soliola's late tackle on Billy Slater
BILLY Slater was so badly concussed by a sickening high shot from Canberra's Sia Soliola that the superstar fullback actually lost two weeks of his life.
A damning medical report by Storm doctor Jason Chan - tendered at the NRL judiciary hearing - stated Slater could not remember the match or his previous fortnight.
Slater could not even recall playing State or Origin III in Brisbane or the ankle injury he sustained leading into the decider.
The three-man judiciary panel -comprising former players Bob Lindner, Sean Garlick and Mal Cochrane - took eight minutes to decide that Soliola should be banned for five games.
He will return for a round 26 game, ironically, against Melbourne.
Chan's report continued: "He (Slater) was unconscious for two to three minutes. Bill was unresponsive. He was clearly disoriented. He had no recollection of the event.
"The force of the contact was severe. He was unconscious before he hit the ground."
Soliola was not graded by the NRL match review committee, instead referred directly to the judiciary.
It has been rated the most horrendous high tackle of the season, made worse by the fact Soliola collected one of rugby league's highest-profile players.
In a post-hearing statement, Soliola said: "It's disappointing losing five weeks but I accept the punishment.
The hearing was told Billy Slater could not remember the Origin decider following the hit.
"Apologies to everyone who was affected by this, especially Billy and his family.
"I know this has put a bad light on our game - I love this game, it has given me so much."
Soliola whacked Slater in the 51st minute of last Saturday night's match at GIO Stadium. He pleaded guilty to dangerous contact neck/head.
"I wanted to get there and do my best for the team and to make a normal tackle," Soliola said in evidence.
"I didn't mean to collect him high. I didn't think it was late at the time. But looking back and seeing the replays, I realised it was late.
"I put my hand up. It was late. I was trying to close the (defensive) gap as quick as I can and try and tackle Slater.
"In footy terms, we call it inside pressure. The threat from the inside - to get on your bike as quick as you can. My job is to get the man with the ball."
Asked did he know where Slater's head or neck were when bracing for impact, Soliola said: "No."
Nick Ghabar, representing Soliola, said his client's tackle was not in the "worst category" for an offence.
NRL counsel, Anthony Lo Surdo, SC, showed the panel six different angles of the hit.
"The tackle was very late," he said. "There was direct contact to the head or neck of Mr Slater.
"Mr Soliola launched his body into the tackle. There was a swinging action of the arm."
Lo Surdo sought a six-week suspension. Ghabar pushed for a three-game ban with priors and an early plea.
Newcastle coach Nathan Brown - who coached Soliola in England - wrote a reference for the player.
After the match, NRL referee's boss, Tony Archer, issued a statement claiming Soliola should have been sent-off. Some suggest Archer's comments may have prejudiced Soliola's case.
Slater was taken from field on a medical. He didn't go to hospital as was originally feared. He is certain though to miss Sunday's big match against Manly at AAMI Park.
Before the hearing, Storm halfback Cooper Cronk fronted the media, saying: "The hit was obviously quite late and high so… I'm not a part of the judiciary, I don't know what determines these things."
Soliola's hefty suspension continues a horrible season for Canberra, with the pre-season title favourites now all but certain to miss the finals.