SYDNEY (AP) — New Zealand international forward Kevin Proctor was found guilty Tuesday of biting an opponent during a National Rugby League game and was banned for four weeks.
The Gold Coast Titans captain was the first player sent off by a referee for biting in the NRL — which was established as Australia’s top-flight rugby league competition in 1998 — after video reviews of his mouth on Cronulla five-eighth Shaun Johnson’s arm during a tackle in the 56th minute of last Saturday’s game in Sydney.
Johnson reacted angrily on the field but told an NRL judicial panel on Tuesday that on reflection he didn’t think it was deliberate.
“My arm was pressuring against his mouth,” Johnson told the judiciary, according to NRL.com. “I felt like I got bit and that’s why I reacted the way I did at the time.
“As the match went on, I thought it didn’t really make sense.”
The 31-year-old Proctor, who has played 250 NRL games, denied intentionally biting Johnson as he tried to break free from a tackle. He said an existing sinus issue and the pressure from Johnson’s arm across his face in the tackle made it difficult for him to breath.
“I was really struggling for air and opening my mouth was the only way to get it,” Proctor said in his defense.
Proctor’s suspension was significantly less than the 12-week ban imposed on Canterbury Bulldogs prop James Graham, who was placed on report after a skirmish with Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater in the 2012 NRL Grand Final and later found guilty of biting.
The penalty range sought by the NRL for Proctor was 4-6 weeks. Proctor’s sanction was at the lower end of the scale because of his clean record over the previous seven years. He’ll be eligible to return for the Titans on Sept. 19 against Manly.
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