Only days after the NRL threw the book at players from the Sharks / Roosters brawl, somehow Steve Matai has escaped penalty for a blatant physical offence.
Manly officials took the approach that ‘Matai didn’t intentionally headbutt Chris Heighington, but rather braced for close contact with the Wests Tigers forward.’ The victory made even more staggering by the fact that Matai has already faced a headbutt charge earlier in 2007.
This is real Shawshank Redemption stuff here, Matai may have just pulled off one of the biggest judiciary escapes in NRL history.
A noted hardman; Matai regularly flirts with the judicial boundaries of the game and after recent comments and suspensions from the NRL in attempts to totally clean up the game – this decision is mind boggling.
Matai was cross examined by Judiciary counsel Peter Kite within the hearing and when asked if he considered his actions to be a headbutt? Matai said: “If I was going to headbutt him, surely I would grab him.
“I know what a headbutt is. If that was a headbutt it was pretty embarrassing.”
Lets get real here, a headbutt is a headbutt – whether intentional or not; thats what Steve Matai did.
Paul Gallen must be kicking himself for not fighting his headbutt charge at the judiciary. He could have tried to convince the judiciary panel that he was merely trying to ‘kiss’ Shane Shackleton and even he may have got off at this rate.
So, the decision has been made, and Matai is now free to play for the Sea Eagles against Cronulla as Manly try to end a 21 year winless hoodoo at Shark Park. It will be interesting to see the level of aggression from Steve Matai as surely the Manly staff will have told him in no uncertain terms to curb his borderline style.