Justin Hodges weighs in on Billy Slater shoulder charge
FORMER Broncos skipper Justin Hodges says Billy Slater will be an emotional wreck and has appealed for the NRL judiciary to clear the retiring Melbourne Storm star for a fairytale farewell.
Slater will front the judiciary in Sydney on Tuesday night in a bid to beat a shoulder charge suspension and play in Sunday's grand final against the Roosters.
Hodges faced a similar scenario in 2015, his final season in the NRL, after being charged for a dangerous throw in Brisbane's preliminary final win against the Roosters.
Hodges was represented by high-profile lawyer Nick Ghabar, the same man the Storm have entrusted with having Slater cleared to finish his career with a grand final farewell at ANZ Stadium.
The judiciary found Hodges not guilty and the former Queensland Origin star was allowed to play in the epic premiership decider against North Queensland which the Broncos lost in extra-time.
Hodges called for the judiciary to not ruin Slater's dreams of finishing his 16-season NRL career with a grand final fairytale.
"I hope common sense prevails and allows him to play," Hodges told The Courier-Mail.
"I know everyone has a say on it and people think he should be suspended, but there's been too many grey areas to suspend someone for that in his last game.
"We see the big shoulder charges that Dylan Napa and Sonny-Bill Williams do. That wasn't a shoulder charge.
"I hope he doesn't get suspended."
The Storm and Ghabar are preparing to argue Slater's contact was unavoidable given the angle he collided with Cronulla winger Sosaia Feki.
Slater also had his right hand raised when the contact was made with Feki.
It wasn't a traditional 'front-on' shoulder charge and Hodges said he would have made the same tackle in that situation.
"When you're a fullback and making those cover tackles one-on-one then that's what you're required to do," he said.
"You're trying to barge the guy out of touch and the technique goes out the window when you're trying to save a try for the team.
"That's how I would have made the tackle as well. I'm pretty sure 99 per cent of other fullbacks would have done the same."
Hodges spent the first four days of the 2015 grand final week agonising over his judiciary case before being cleared.
The 251-game NRL legend said Slater would be struggling to focus on the game given his career could be over.
"It was terrible," Hodges said.
"You're about to prepare for the biggest game of your life. This is what you dream of. You dream of playing in grand finals, let alone your last ever game.
"To get wiped out in your last ever game would be tragic. That's what crossed my mind, not getting to finish on my terms.
"It was the toughest ordeal of the week. Your concentration should be about enjoying the week, preparing and getting ready to play the biggest game of your life, not worrying about if you're going to be there.
"You work hard all year for this moment and it lays in the hands of other people.
"Whether he wins or not, the right way is to let him play and finish his career. He's been a wonderful player and it'd be terrible to see him go out by not playing."
Roosters hooker Jake Friend was on Sunday hit with a grade one dangerous throw charge for a lifting tackle on Rabbitohs skipper Greg Inglis, but will be free to play with an early guilty plea.