Melbourne have expressed surprise that prop Jesse Bromwich was charged by the the NRL match review committee with biting Josh Dugan, after he was found not guilty of the offence.
The judiciary panel appeared to share the Storm’s view, deliberating for just three minutes on Wednesday night before rejecting the allegation.
Bromwich robustly protested his innocence during a 90-minute hearing at which Dugan gave evidence, in regard to an incident that occurred in the 69th minute of the Storm’s win over St George Illawarra in Napier on Saturday.
The Kiwi international spoke briefly to the media of his “relief” after the verdict was handed down by the panel of Bob Lindner, Mal Cochrane and Don McKinnon.
The club later released a statement quoting Football Director Frank Ponissi recording their “surprise” that Bromwich was asked to front at Rugby League Central after the charge was referred straight to the judiciary.
“We are pleased Jesse has been found not guilty at tonight’s NRL judiciary hearing and is free to play on Friday night,” Ponissi said.
“I’d like to thank the judiciary panel for a fair hearing.
“The initial report took us by surprise and on understanding the allegation and speaking with Jesse we were always going to strongly defend the charge.
“We are pleased we can continue to focus on our match against the Tigers and have Jesse take his place in the team.”
The last player found guilty of biting was Canterbury prop James Graham for attacking Billy Slater’s ear in the 2012 grand final. The England forward copped a 12 game ban. A similar suspension would have ruled out Bromwich for the rest of the NRL season and New Zealand’s end of season trip to Europe.
“I definitely didn’t bite him,” Bromwich told the judiciary hearing.
“I have been playing rugby league for a long time and I have never bitten anyone before. I play the game hard but fair and biting is just dirty. I don’t know what he felt but I didn’t bite him.”
Bromwich is now free to play in the Storm’s next game in round 21 against Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Friday night.