Billy Slater will have an opportunity to end his illustrious career as NRL champion.
The NRL judiciary ruled today in favour of the Melbourne Storm stalwart, clearing him of a shoulder charge which would've ruled him out of Sunday's grand final against the Sydney Roosters.
Slater was charged by the match review committee of a grade one shoulder challenge on Cronulla's Sosaia Feki in the 14th minute of last Friday's preliminary final at AAMI Park.
However, the judiciary – consisting of panel members Sean Garlick, Bob Lindner and Mal Cochrane – deemed that Slater made enough of an attempt to wrap his arms around Feki in the tackle.
The not guilty verdict came after a monster 50 minute deliberation and an almost three hour hearing but the Storm superstar fullback will line up on grand final day.
Slater fronted the media but didn't take any questions.
"I'd just like to thank the judiciary members for a fair hearing," he said. "It was important for me tonight to get my point across and my intentions in this incident. Now it's important for me to focus on the game, I haven't started my preparations as yet so that starts as of now. I'd also like to thank Nick, my lawyer, the club of the Melbourne Storm, they've really helped me over the last four days put this defence together. Now it's time to think about the grand final."
10.30pm: Long deliberation ... 35 minutes and counting
It's been over half an hour of deliberation and the hearing has gone for almost two and a half hours.
Speaking on NRL 360, Phil Rothfield was surprised it had gone so long.
"I thought he presented a very good case," Rothfield said. "I thought it would only go 15 minutes but now it's gone more than 20 minutes over that, I am starting to worry about that."
10.15pm: Hearing passes two hours
Extensive deliberations going on amongst the judiciary panel members. Over 20 minutes now. Is the panel split?
9.50pm: Judiciary decision imminent
All parties and media have been asked to leave the room as the judiciary panel deliberate on Slater's guilt or innocence.
It comes after a 10-minute address from judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew has told panel members emotion around Slater's and the grand final is irrelevant in their determination.
Bellew also said there are two questions for the panel to deliberate on:
1. Was there forceful contact with the shoulder or upper arm? Bellew says if your answer is no, then he is not guilty.
If you answer yes you need to consider:
2. Was the forceful contact made without Slater using or attempting to use both his arms including his hands to tackle or otherwise take hold of the opposing player.
Earlier, the three-man judiciary panel of Sean Garlick, Bob Lindner and Mal Cochrane have been asked to leave the room so judiciary chairman Geoff Bellow could address both parties.
The hearing has been running for 95 minutes.
9.20pm: Slater's lawyer earns his crust
Billy Slater's lawyer Nick Ghabar has argued "The rule only requires an attempt, the rule does not require a successful attempt" in his bid to get Slater off the shoulder charge.
The definition of a shoulder charge is "where a defender does not use, or attempt to use, his arms (including his hands) to tackle or otherwise take hold of the opposing player and the contact is forceful. It will be considered misconduct, if any player affects a tackle in the manner as defined."
He also argued Feki had as much blame as Slater in the tackle, putting the ball in his left hand and looking at the fast-moving Slater coming across in defence.
Ghabar's main points are initial contact in the tackle was made with Slater's pec, not his shoulder and Feki changed his direction which meant Slater had no alternative.
The NRL argument from Anthony La Surdo rested arguing Slater had an option to make a legal tackle but chose otherwise.
"The right arm had to go somewhere and that was the most natural position for the arm to be given he was travelling at such speed," La Surdo said.
8.48pm: "My intention was to make a tackle" - Slater
Billy Slater has revealed he hit Feki earlier than expected, which led to the awkward shoulder charge.
NRL.com reported Slater told the judiciary he was attempting to make a ball and all tackle but got to Feki earlier than he expected.
Slater confirmed, saying "my intention was to make a tackle".
"When he plants that left foot his intention changes from going directly to the corner post to going directly at me. My shoulders and my feet are heading directly to that corner post. He changes and this puts me in a vulnerable position," he told the judiciary.
"By him veering back towards me the contact has happened a metre or two metres before I anticipated.
"He's raised his right elbow so I've protected myself with my left side of the body but I've turned my head to avoid his elbow. If I'm not going 33kmh I'm going somewhere near it and I have two metres to make a decision."
NRL counsel Anthony La Surdo hit back, saying: "That's what you intended to do but that's not what happened. What you intended to do and what you ended up doing are two different things."
Slater's counsel Nick Ghabar showed some still images of the tackle early, highlighting Slater's right arm in contact with Feki.
8pm: Judiciary panel revealed
The judiciary panel which will determine Billy Slater's fate has been revealed.
The three-man judiciary panel is Sean Garlick, Bob Lindner and Mal Cochrane.
The five contenders included former premiership-winning Storm teammate Dallas Johnson, former Roosters captain Garlick and Tony Puletua who have been previously used as judiciary panelists throughout the season.
Johnson was reported in the Cairns Posthe hopes the panel "deem it wasn't a shoulder charge".
Slater needs to beat a ban for shoulder charging Cronulla's Sosaia Feki to play the final game of his glittering 16-year career in Sunday's showdown.
6:30pm: Slater has arrived to find out his fate
Billy Slater has arrived at NRL headquarters, ready to find out his fate has he hopes to get off his shoulder charge and play in Sunday night's grand final.
If Slater can get off, he will hope to finish his incredible career with a third premiership.
Slater went into NRL headquarters via the back door at NRL headquarters to avoid the media scrum.
The judiciary hearing is set to kick off at 6pm.