The Sydney Roosters will have to win their way to the NRL grand final without star centre Latrell Mitchell after he was found guilty of dangerous contact at the judiciary.
Mitchell's marathon 100-minute hearing over the crusher tackle on Cronulla's Josh Dugan lasted longer than Saturday's qualifying final itself, but it took the panel just 12 minutes to find him guilty on Tuesday night.
Neither Mitchell or coach Trent Robinson spoke to the media after the hearing.
The Roosters face a difficult task ahead of them against either South Sydney or St George Illawarra on Saturday week without both the centre and suspended prop Dylan Napa.
Mitchell had been instrumental in the Roosters' run to the minor premiership and preliminary final, having scored 16 tries, made 18 linebreaks and busted through 101 tackles.
In a drawn-out hearing, the NSW State of Origin centre argued he left Dugan's head enough space between his right arm and chest to slip out as he fell to the ground and even called upon Roosters defence coach Craig Fitzgibbon to explain.
But the three-man panel of Bob Lindner, Sean Garlick and Tony Puletua disagreed, siding with the NRL's view that he'd been careless in his actions and left the Sharks centre at risk of injury as he brought him down with the full weight of his body and with no room to move for Dugan's head.
"In your desire to make that dominant tackle you've failed in your (duty of care for him)," NRL counsel Peter McGrath told Mitchell before the panel.
"It did put Dugan in a position of potential vulnerability and a position of risk of injury to his head, neck or spinal cord.
"The determination of Mitchell to effect a dominant tackle won out."
Mitchell admitted he could have left Dugan more space with his elbow, but argued the involvement of teammate Jake Friend had limited that opportunity.
"I could have been more courteous of how he fell through, but then again I was just trying to be tight through my tackle," Mitchell said.
"I didn't want to hurt him, I don't go out to deliberately hurt someone.
"Your neck is pretty important to your body. I tried to look after him as best I could to get him to ground."
Mitchell will miss just one game with the ban - the same punishment he would have copped had he took the early guilty plea.
He's now expected to be replaced by Roosters' utility Mitch Aubusson at left centre for the third week of the finals.
Australian Associated Press