NRL 2022: Brandon Smith Justice, Storm Star suspended for three games

Striker Brandon Smith has been obliterated by NRL justice for his verbal gunshot at referee Adam Gee. Find out how long he will be sidelined.

Melbourne’s Brandon Smith has been handed a three-game suspension after calling referee Adam Gee “a cheating bastard” in Storm’s loss to Cronulla last week.

Smith’s lawyer, Nick Ghabar, failed to convince the judiciary in a 52-minute hearing that a two-week suspension would be an adequate sentence given the forward’s genuine “regret” over the incident.

The two-member panel of Tony Puletua and Paul Simpkins unanimously agreed with the ruling, citing: “An infraction of this nature has a potentially adverse impact on young players attempting to emulate those who play in NRL competition … and adverse impact on those afterward.” could aspire to become match officials.”

An emotional Smith, who pleaded guilty to a contract-running charge after being sent straight to justice, admitted the insult and said it was a “brain explosion”.

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Gee sent Smith into the Sin-Bin while Melbourne had possession after hearing the comment.

Smith had been tackled by Aiden Tolman in the previous game and had taken offense at the Sharks forward’s attempts to slow the ball’s play.

“I felt like Tolman pulled me down with an extra effort, I thought that would justify another six-point penalty. I was wrong in what I said, I’m not trying to dispute that. I have already pleaded guilty. I took my frustrations out on this one. I said something I regret. When I try to get up I say ‘f**k me’ because I was frustrated. I got up and carried on with my frustration and addressed those words to the referee, which was a brain blast,” Smith said.

Smith broke down in tears as he was grilled by NRL adviser Lachlan Gyles for setting a “terrible example” for young fans watching the game.

“What you did in that match was a terrible example to the kids that you see as an NRL player… to see a professional player of your standard call the referee a cheater,” Gyles told Smith.

Gyles accepted that Smith had shown remorse but urged the judiciary to make an example of the Melbourne forward and impose a ban of at least four weeks.

Gyles also told Smith, who actually called Gee a “f***king cheating p***k,” which the Storm forward denied.

“The use of this term is very dangerous and has serious connotations … the use of this term is unacceptable and a significant sanction should be proposed to clarify the unacceptable nature of this behavior,” Gyles said.

“Even with the guilty plea, the player’s honesty and remorse being accepted, with the credentials of Michael Maguire… I recommend there is still at least a four week suspension.”

But Ghabar argued that the mid-game scapegoat and a two-week suspension would be enough to act as a general deterrent to other NRL players and that a larger suspension would fail to take into account Smith being “contrite” for labeling the referee had “a cheater.”

Part of Smith’s defense included a character reference from New Zealand coach Michael Maguire.

The former Wests Tigers coach told the judiciary that Smith’s behavior was out of character.

“Brandon is an exceptionally talented and dedicated player, he’s well-loved within his team for the way he plays the game and his vibrant personality. He’s a Larrkin. But he has always shown that he respects authority and especially match officials. I think it’s uncharacteristic that Brandon acted like that towards a referee,” Maguire said.

The panel commended Smith’s honesty and the fact that the 26-year-old went out of his way to apologize to Gee at Pointsbet Stadium.

“I went into the shed and immediately told Frank (Ponissi) that I screwed up. I told him what I said and he was very disappointed,” Smith said.

“After the game I asked Frank if I could see the referee to apologize and I did. I went and apologized and told him that was out of character.

“I’m embarrassed. I will accept any consequence that is thrown at me tonight.”

Smith became the third player to be referred directly to justice this season. Newcastle’s Mitch Barnett was handed a six-week ban after hitting Penrith’s Chris Smith with the ball and New Zealand’s Marcelo Montoya was handed a month’s ban after a homophobic slur.

In 2000, Gorden Tallis escaped punishment after being sent off in Origin I after he called referee Bill Harrigan a “f**king cheat”.

Originally published as NRL 2022: Judiciary’s verdict on Brandon Smith, Sturmstar banned for three games NRL 2022: Brandon Smith Justice, Storm Star suspended for three games

Nate Jones

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