Newcastle Knights forward Mitch Barnett has been given a six-game suspension for elbowing Penrith Panther’s Chris Smith in an off the ball hit.
Barnett was taken off during the Knights 38-20 loss to the Panthers and was referred to the judiciary straight away.
Upon meeting the NRL counsel on Tuesday night, the 27-year-old pleaded guilty to the charges against him.
The NRL initially requested an eight-game suspension, while Barnett’s lawyer Nick Ghabar argued that only four games would be sufficient.
The judiciary panel, Geoff Bellew, Bob Lindner, and Tony Puletua discussed internally for 32 minutes before handing Barnett his suspension.
The panel stated that his behaviour was reckless, but they acknowledged that it was not intentional or a dirty play.
Acknowledging his mistake Barnett stated in the hearing that he didn’t see Smith until he was in his peripheral vision, and regrets lifting his arm.
Due to him not being able to see Smith until it was too late, he raised a “bumper” to protect himself.
“I raised my bumper because I wanted to push through without falling over. We are coached to not to leave it up to the referee – to get through and make the tackle,” Barnett said.
“My goal is to fill the space (between Adam Clune and Bradman Best) without getting knocked over. I just saw a black jersey. I made a split-second decision.”
Barnett has reached out to Smith since the incident, making sure that he was alright.
“I’m disappointed and I’ll go away and do my time,” Barnett said.
“The lesson learnt today is that I can’t be careless in terms of player safety.”
Smith has not been named in the Penrith’s team list for round four against South Sydney, while Barnett won’t be able to suit up for the Knights until round 10.