Luke Thompson, the former St Helens star, now of the NRL’s Canterbury Bulldogs, and the current holder of the Harry Sunderland Trophy as the player of the match in last year’s Super League Grand Final, has been suspended for four matches after being found guilty of dangerous contact to the head of Penrith captain James Tamou.
At a lengthy hearing on Tuesday night in Sydney, Thompson denied that he had deliberately gouged the eye of Tamou when trying to complete a tackle, claiming that he had been trying to lever the Penrith star to the ground.
“I’ve not realised that I’m touching his face at all,” said Thompson.
But the panel of former players Bob Lindner, Sean Garlick and Ben Creagh listened to the evidence for 90 minutes before pronouncing Thompson guilty of the offence, deciding that a penalty notice of 400 points was appropriate, meaning a suspension of four matches.
After the hearing Thompson still proclaimed his innocence.
“I was just trying to win the tackle – take him to the ground. So I’m a bit confused, disappointed,” he said.
Asked if he was concerned the verdict would damage his reputation, he said: “That’s why it’s upsetting, disappointing. But it is what it is so I’ll move on.”
The decision was made despite Tamou, who had made an allegation of gouging to the referee on the field, appearing to backtrack when giving evidence at the hearing.
“I felt something around the face and was hoping the referee Henry Peranara would give us a penalty,” Tamou told the panel by video link.
“I would have wholeheartedly believed it (was an eye gouge) if I haven’t seen the footage. I don’t think that it was intentional. It didn’t do any damage to my eye. It was fine during the game and after it.
“I think if Luke really wanted to do some damage he could have. But he moved his hand away and my eye was fine. I don’t think there was any intent in it.”
Under questioning from Thompson’s counsel Nick Ghabar, Tamou said he felt no pressure on his eye socket or any raking of fingers across his eye.