Warriors hooker Issac Luke has thrown his support behind Melbourne star Billy Slater, with the Storm fullback's hope of playing in the NRL Grand Final in jeopardy.
Slater, who will retire at the end of the season, was handed a grade one charge for a 14th minute shoulder charge against Cronulla Sharks winger Sosaia Feki in the Storm's 22-6 preliminary final win on Friday night.
The incident occurred when Slater put his body on the line to stop Feki from scoring a try, and the resulting charge could see Slater ruled out of next weekend's Grand Final - putting an abrupt end to his storied career.
Luke was in a similar position during his time with the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2014. The Kiwi hooker was charged for a dangerous throw on then-Sydney Rooster Sonny Bill Williams the week prior to the Grand Final. The charge was upheld, and Luke could only watch as his side went on the win the Premiership.
"That last week sucks not being a part of it," Luke said on Twitter, "even though the club (did) everything for me to be part of it.
"I reckon he should play. No matter what the crime is."
Ahead of the 2017 NRL season, the organisation introduced fines as punishments for some low-grade offences in order to reduce player suspensions. While grade one charges for careless high tackles, tripping and contrary conduct come with a fine as punishment, shoulder charges still come with demerit points. The 200 that come with the charge should Slater be found guilty at his judiciary hearing would be enough to see the 16-year veteran watching from the sidelines.
Luke isn't the only NRL stalwart to come out in support of Slater's bid to play in next weekend's Grand Final, with retiring Sharks second rower Luke Lewis arguing the fullback's case.
"He's one of the best defensive fullbacks in the game and you have to stop a try and put your body on the line," Lewis said in the post-match press conference.
"If someone was to miss a game for something so silly like that, I don't know what our game would be coming to. It's a contact sport.
"I don't think there was anything in it to be honest. If there's anyone I would like to see out on Grand Final day, it's one bloke - Billy Slater."
While judiciary hearings are usually a Tuesday night affair, the Storm were expected to request a Monday hearing to allow as much time to prepare for the Grand Final as possible knowing if Slater would be available.
The 35-year-old announced his retirement from rugby league in August this year. He'll finish with more than 300 NRL matches, all for Melbourne, 31 State of Origin games for Queensland and 30 tests for Australia to his name.
Since debuting in first grade in 2003, Slater has won four Grand Finals with the Storm – though two were stripped from the club for salary cap breaches – as well as 11 State of Origin series' and two Rugby League World Cups.