NRL: Graham cops 12-match ban for bite

James Graham of the Canterbury Bulldogs at the NRL judiciary at NRL Headquarters in Sydney. Photo /Getty Images
James Graham of the Canterbury Bulldogs at the NRL judiciary at NRL Headquarters in Sydney. Photo /Getty Images

Canterbury prop James Graham was handed a record 12-match suspension at the NRL judiciary on Thursday night for biting Melbourne's Billy Slater to give the Englishman the ignominy of copping the longest ban for the offence in Australian rugby league history.

The previous longest suspension for biting was eight weeks, which were handed out to Canterbury players Brad Morrin in 2007 and Jarrod McCracken in 1991.

Gold Coast's William Zillman copped four weeks for biting South Sydney's Jamie Simpson in 2009, while Morrin was sidelined after trying to take a chunk out of Parramatta's Timana Tahu arm in 2007.

The three-man panel of Michael Buettner, Mal Cochrane and Royce Ayliffe ruled that Graham bit Slater on the left ear during a brawl which spilled over the sideline in last Sunday's grand final at ANZ Stadium.

A spokesman for the NRL said it was yet to be determined if the suspension would include two upcoming Tests for England against Wales and France and two trials games ahead of the 2013 season.

Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg read from a statement after the hearing.

"We're extremely disappointed with the result. We simply went into tonight's hearing and spoke the truth. No spin, no angle, no secret, no early guilty plea for a reduction, we simply relied on the truth," he said.

In a tense hearing, Graham, who was flanked by barrister Nick Ghabar and coach Des Hasler, maintained his innocence when questioned by NRL prosecutor Peter Kite, who accused the prop of chomping down on Slater's ear time and again.

"I've played over 250 games (first grade in England and Australia) ... I've never bitten anybody," Graham said.

"One hundred per cent I did not (bite). In any of the pics I can't see teeth marks. I did not come down on Billy Slater's ear.

"I consider myself an honest person and I did not deliberately or accidentally bite him."

Kite replied: "Your head turns to the right then I suggest to you, you bit his (Slater's) ear."

But Graham maintained his mouth was open because he was yelling at Slater and that he did not bite down on Slater's ear and left the star bleeding.

"Last time I took a bite out of something I did it with my mouth closed," Graham said.

The panel were shown several angles of the incident with Ghabar saying there was no clear evidence of Graham's teeth being clinched on Slater.

Ghabar also suggested the wound to Slater's ear could have been caused by David Stagg when he grabbed Slater around the head during the fight in the 25th minute before Graham charged into the melee.

The defence also used a statement from Dr Amir Ibrahim, who claimed Slater's ear didn't have the usual pattern of damage for being bitten.

Ghabar also showed the panel two incidents from earlier in the season where Graham was involved in scuffles with South Sydney's Sam Burgess and Manly's Jason King.

The footage aimed to demonstrate the Englishman has a particular style of getting close to opponents when he's in a tussle with an opponent.

They also called in Daniel Anderson, Graham's former coach at St Helens between 2005-2008, as a character witness for the Englishman.

Biting suspensions in Australian rugby league (NRL 1998 - Present)

(Matches suspended, player, club, year)

* 12 - James Graham (Canterbury, 2012)

* 8 - Jarrod McCracken (Canterbury, 1991)

* 8 - Brad Morrin (Canterbury, 2007)

* 7 - Graeme Wynn (St George, 1982)

* 6 - Grant Izzard (Illawarra, 1993)

* 4 - William Zillman (Gold Coast, 2009)

* 3 - Peter Ryan(Brisbane, 1994)

* 2 - Chris Beatie (Cronulla, 2001)

Longest suspensions by NRL judiciary (1998-present).

(Matches suspended, player, club, year, charge)

* 18: Danny Williams (Melbourne, 2004) - Striking

* 17: John Hopoate (Manly, 2005) - Striking

* 12: Josh Stuart (North Sydney, 1998) - Two high tackles

* 12: John Hopoate (Wests Tigers, 2001) - Contrary conduct

* 12: Clint Newton (Newcastle, 2004) - Striking

* 12: Travis Burns (Penrith, 2012) - Intentional high tackle

* 12: James Graham (Canterbury, 2012) - Biting

* 11: Luke O'Donnell (Wests Tigers, 2003) - Striking

* 10: Tim Maddison (North Queensland, 2002) - Striking

* 10: Greg Bird (Cronulla, 2004) - Striking

* 10: Luke MacDougall (South Sydney, 2005) - Dangerous throw

* 10: Lopini Paea (Sydney Roosters, 2006) - Dangerous throw

- AAP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 21 Apr 2014 17:51:52 Processing Time: 735ms