Panthers superstar Nathan Cleary is facing an almost certain stint on the sideline after he was sent off in a stunning start to his side’s clash with the Eels on Friday.
With the Eels in the lead 12-4, 18 minutes into the game, Cleary dumped five-eighth Dylan Brown in an ugly tackle.
Cleary wrapped one arm around Brown’s waist and the other around a leg as he lifted him beyond the horizontal.
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“Oh my goodness there is a problem,” Fox League commentator Dan Ginnane said.
“That’s Dylan Brown that was flipped over like an omelette.
“That is a horrible tackle... thank goodness Brown is OK.”
Cleary immediately shook his head after the tackle and CommBank Stadium erupted with boos as he made his way over to referee Todd Smith.
“Hands are between his legs, you drove him into the ground — you’re off,” Smith said as he pointed to the sheds.
The boos from Eels fans quickly turned into cheers as one of the biggest names in the game — and Penrith’s most important player — was ordered from the field.
“Can you believe it? Nathan Cleary marched from CommBank Stadium,” Ginnane said.
“Those replays don’t get any prettier.”
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Shane Flanagan pointed out that Cleary’s hands being between Brown’s legs is a “definite no-no.”
Meanwhile, Panthers legend Greg Alexander conceded the send off was the right call.
“I think the refs hands were tied. It was a spear tackle, the bloke ended up on his head,” he said.
“The referee said hands between the legs, which they were, they’re the indicators the refs look for so I think the referee had no other option but to send Nathan.”
The Eels immediately capitalised off the Panthers being one-man down and ran in three tries before half time, including a double to Reed Mahoney, and a final try in the 77th minute.
Cleary faces a nervous wait for the charge sheet which will drop on Saturday morning but based off precedence he could cop a four-week ban.
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Manly’s Karl Lawton was suspended for four weeks in May after taking an early guilty plea on his grade three dangerous throw charge.
Lawton’s tackle was on Rabbitohs skipper in Cameron Murray in Round 8.
“Precedence has been set this year and we’ve seen a few tackles very similar,” Alexander said.
If Cleary’s tackle is considered a grade one he can escape with a $1,000 fine with an early guilty plea if it’s his first offence or a $2,500 fine if it’s his second offence.
But it’s more likely he’ll cop a grade two or three charge. They carry a two-match ban or four-match ban with early guilty pleas respectively if it’s his first offence, or a four-match ban or five-match ban with early guilty please if it’s his second offence.
Grade 1: $1,500 ($1000)
Grade 2: Three games (two games)
Grade 3: Five games (four games)
Grade 1: Two games ($2,500)
Grade 2: Four games (three games)
Grade 3: Six games (five games)
*(signifies early guilty plea)