UPDATED: Snowden accepts 7-game suspension

Knight Snowden’s jaw-breaking hit

GALLERY: Match report

KNIGHTS coach Wayne Bennett said Kade Snowden has reluctantly accepted a season-ending seven-game suspension for a shoulder charge that broke Ray Thompson’s jaw.

Snowden’s early guilty plea on Tuesday left him with 730 demerit points – equivalent to seven games on the sidelines plus 30 carry-over points – meaning he will not play again until next year.

The former NSW and Australian prop was sent off by referee Shayne Hayne in the 65th minute of Newcastle’s 26-6 loss to North Queensland in Townsville last Saturday night, and subsequently charged with a grade-four shoulder charge.

Bennett said Snowden considered challenging the charge at the judiciary panel, and possibly having it downgraded and his suspension reduced to five games, but decided not to because he was not prepared to risk sitting out nine matches.

‘‘We’ve taken the early plea. Obviously you’re going to do nine weeks if you lose, so seven weeks is tough enough without putting another two on, and there’s no guarantees,’’ Bennett told the media after the Knights trained at Mayfield.

‘‘It was Kade’s decision in the end. We left it up to him – we totally wanted to support him.’’

Though he expressed sympathy for Thompson, who had surgery for two-and-a-half hours on Sunday and is not expected to play again this season, Bennett said Snowden’s shoulder charge was neither malicious nor intentional.

‘‘We don’t feel it deserved seven weeks,’’ Bennett said.

‘‘It was a collision. They happen in rugby league. It’s a contact game.

‘‘Whilst at the same time we’ve got a young player with a broken jaw, we understand that, but it wasn’t because it was malicious, or intentional.

‘‘But weighing it all up, as I said, it was Kade’s decision in the end and he knew the club was right behind him if he wanted to go the extra two weeks and take that risk.

‘‘He would have finished up with five anyway, so he thought he was better off taking the seven rather than having to do the nine if it doesn’t get up.’’

Thompson had two plates and several screws inserted after his jaw was broken in two places, and there were suggestions he suffered possible nerve damage to his mouth.

Kade Snowden’s shoulder charge that broke Ray Thompson’s jaw in the North Queensland Cowboys v Newcastle Knights game in Townsville on Saturday. Picture GETTY IMAGES

Kade Snowden reacts to being sent off by the referee after a shoulder charge broke Ray Thompson’s jaw in the North Queensland Cowboys v Newcastle Knights game in Townsville on Saturday. Picture GETTY IMAGES

The 23-year-old hooker, who suffered a 1cm displacement of the right side of his jaw as well as a secondary fracture, was due to leave hospital on Tuesday.

Bennett hopes Willie Mason will replace Snowden in the front row for Newcastle’s must-win game against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

Mason has missed Newcastle’s past four games recovering from a fractured cheekbone and torn calf muscle suffered in the Knights’ 28-12 loss to the Roosters at Hunter Stadium on July 28.

Lock Jeremy Smith (sternum) and Mason will undergo fitness tests later this week.KNIGHTS chief executive Matt Gidley has accused the NRL of inconsistency in branding Kade Snowden’s jaw-breaking shoulder charge on Ray Thompson as the worst of its kind this season.


Snowden faces a seven-game suspension if he pleads guilty, or nine games if found guilty by the judiciary panel after being charged with a grade-four shoulder charge on Thompson in the 26-6 loss to the Cowboys on Saturday night.

The NRL match review committee considered a medical report and the horrific nature of Thompson’s facial injuries when handing Snowden the highest grade for a shoulder charge this season.

But Gidley, who spent much of yesterday afternoon studying video of other tackles charged as shoulder charges, is convinced Snowden’s hit was not the worst he has seen.

The Knights have until noon today to decide whether to contest or accept the charge.

‘‘We’re still considering our options and we want to gather some further evidence before we determine what our position will be in relation to this charge,’’ said Gidley, who will meet with Snowden, coach Wayne Bennett and football operations manager Warren Smiles this morning.

‘‘But I must say I’m very frustrated by the inconsistency in the gradings of shoulder charges.

‘‘If Kade’s tackle is a grade four – far and away the worst shoulder charge of the year, and that’s what they’re telling us with this grading – I don’t know if that’s accurate compared to other shoulder charges we’ve seen.

‘‘That inconsistency is the most frustrating thing from our perspective.’’

Gidley said Snowden was upset Thompson had suffered such a serious injury and was just as disappointed to have been sent off for an unintentional ‘‘unfortunate collision’’.

Ray Thompson recovering after surgery on his jaw. Picture from Twitter.

‘‘He’s shattered that a kid broke his jaw, and he’s shattered that he got sent off for something that wasn’t a deliberate act. There was no intent in it. It was just an unfortunate collision that has resulted in a kid sustaining this injury,’’ Gidley said.

Knights lock Jeremy Smith, who served a six-game suspension earlier this season for a grade-three head-slam tackle, responded to Snowden’s charge by tweeting: ‘‘What a #JOKE’’.

The Knights are considering pleading guilty but contesting the grading, hoping for a reduction to a grade-three charge which would reduce the suspension to five games. The risk, however, is if the original grading stands, Snowden would be suspended for nine matches.

The NRL has changed the rules so that players can no longer count officially sanctioned pre-season trials among games served in a suspension.

If the Knights miss the finals, Snowden can only count their last two games against Brisbane and Parramatta, and he would serve the rest of his suspension at the beginning of next season.

Snowden had planned to play for Italy at the World Cup in October and November.

Italy are scheduled to play games against Scotland, Tonga and Wales, and the Knights are within their rights to apply to the NRL have those games counted in any suspension.

Roosters second-rower Sonny Bill Williams’s hit on Knights prop Willie Mason at Hunter Stadium on July28 was one of the tackles Gidley reviewed.

Williams was charged with a grade-two careless high tackle, not a shoulder charge, and served a two-game suspension after pleading guilty. Mason is still out with a fractured cheekbone and a torn calf muscle sustained in that game.

Two prior non-similar incidents this season added a 40per cent loading to Snowden’s base penalty, effectively adding three games to the suspension.

The game against the Cowboys was Snowden’s third since serving a two-match suspension for grade-two dangerous contact (raised knee) on Penrith’s Adam Docker on July21.

Snowden had 63 carry-over points heading into the Cowboys game, but those were reduced by one point per minute after he was sent off, leaving him with 48.

Pleading guilty to a grade-two careless high tackle on Gold Coast utility Luke O’Dwyer on April28, Snowden avoided suspension but incurred 93 demerit points. O’Dwyer suffered a broken jaw.

Without those two prior incidents, an early guilty plea would have reduced Snowden’s suspension to four games.

Thompson had surgery lasting two-and-a-half hours in Townsville on Sunday, having two plates and several screws inserted after breaking his jaw in two places.

There were suggestions he suffered possible nerve damage to his mouth. Thompson, who suffered a 1centimetre displacement of the right side of his jaw as well as a secondary fracture, is due to leave hospital today but is likely to be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

NRL match reviewers are able to use their discretion when considering grading, according to the judiciary code of procedure, and factored in the seriousness of Thompson’s injuries when grading Snowden’s shoulder charge as a grade four.