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As it happened: King banned for three; Thompson cops four

NRL.com is providing live coverage of tonight's judiciary hearings for Storm prop Max King and Bulldogs forward Luke Thompson.

Thompson has been banned for four matches after being found guilty of eye gouging, while King's copped a three-match ban for a "hip drop" tackle.

Refresh this page during the night for the latest updates.

10.16pm: The verdict is in: Ben Creagh announces that Max King has been hit with a 375 demerit penalty, meaning he will miss three matches.

King's only hope of playing again this season would be if the Storm lose their opening finals game against the Eels on Saturday, then win their next two en route to a grand final appearance.

10.12pm: After more than an hour of evidence, the panel are off to deliberate.

10.05pm: Ghabar submits that a 300 demerit (three matches) penalty would be a sufficient starting point. However, he asks for King to receive the usual 25 percent discount for entering an early guilty plea.

Judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew instructs the panel to apply the discount.

9.55pm: To back up his earlier point, Ghabar references St George Illawarra doctor Tom Carrigan's injury report which states Smith and Welch contributed to Lawrie bending backwards and his knee flexing.

Ghabar's other key argument is King landed on the ground before dropping onto Lawrie's leg, thereby minimising the impact. He also notes Lawrie was able to receive strapping treatment before returning to the field and playing the last 33 minutes.

9.43pm: King's lawyer Nick Ghabar counters that it "belies the facts" to say Lawrie had no momentum when his client became involved in the tackle. He claims wrestling was still ongoing.

He also argues that Brandon Smith and Christian Welch contributed to making the tackle more dangerous as they bended Lawrie back.

"The only reason [the bending] occurs, in my submission, is player Smith and player Welch were intimately involved in getting player Lawrie onto his back," he says.

Ghabar accepts King made an error in judgment but says he had no intent to injure. He agrees with McGrath that the force was only moderate.

9.35pm: Given King has already pleaded guilty to the hip drop, NRL counsel McGrath argues that a penalty in the vicinity of 400-500 demerit points (4-5 matches) would be sufficient.

9.31pm: McGrath again shows footage of Jamayne Taunoa-Brown's hip drop against the Sharks to demonstrate his belief that King's is worse than a grade two.

They key difference, he argues, is Taunoa-Brown was "competing to complete" a tackle that still had momentum. He says the same occurred in Tyrell Fuimaono's hip drop on Eels prop Junior Paulo, and despite all three examples being of "moderate force", King's was the most dangerous. He says King had "so many options" to safely complete the tackle including locking Lawrie's legs together.

9.22pm: McGrath says Blake Lawrie was "already effectively held" by Brandon Smith and Christian Welch when King comes in as the third defender, starting at Lawrie's waist. As the footage plays, McGrath argues King deliberately dropped to his right knee before swivelling his hips, shooting out his right leg and plunging his body-weight onto Lawrie's exposed leg.

He submits King was responsible for the gang tackle then collapsing as Lawrie is bent back awkwardly. "It's just with luck there's no serious injury," he says.

King placed on report for tackle on Lawrie

9.10pm: While he doesn't submit that King intended to injure Dragons prop Blake Lawrie, NRL counsel McGrath argues King's hip drop was far worse than a grade-two offence. He says the "degree of force, the high level of recklessness and the risk of injury" must be considered.

9.05pm: Several angles of King's "hip drop" tackle are shown before clips of recent grade-two offences by Warriors prop Jamayne Taunoa-Brown and Dragons second-rower Tyrell Fuimaono are played for comparison.

9pm: Max King's hearing has now started. The Storm forward is appearing on video link from the Sunshine Coast with football manager Frank Ponissi.

8.55pm: A disappointed Thompson briefly spoke after the hearing, saying it was never his intention to eye-gouge “or what they accused me of."

"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."

8.48pm: Bob Lindner announces that Thompson will serve a four-match suspension.

8.39pm: Ghabar is urging the panel to deem 200 demerit points sufficient. He references Raiders forward Hudson Young's eye gouging case late last season in which he received 800 demerit points.

He argues Young's offence was "four or five times more significant in terms of culpability". Young had also been suspended for the same charge earlier in 2019.

The panel will now deliberate again to decide the length of Thompson's suspension.

8.30pm: NRL counsel Peter McGrath is pushing for a penalty of 400 demerit points (a four-week ban). Nick Ghabar is now addressing the panel.

8.23pm: The verdict is in: Luke Thompson has been found guilty of the charge of making dangerous contact to the eye (careless).

The panel will now determine Thompson's sentence.

7.54pm: Judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew says that if the panel find the contact by Thompson was not intentional, they must then consider if it was reckless. To deem Thompson's conduct reckless, the panel must be satisfied he foresaw making contact with Tamou's eye and proceeded with his actions anyway. If they aren't satisfied with that, they must then consider if it was careless.

And that's it - the panel are off to deliberate.

7.35pm: Ghabar finishes his submission by saying, "there was nothing untoward" in the contact. "No grabbing, no poking, no raking. There was nothing careless or reckless".

7.25pm: Ghabar submits that slow-motion replays could make it seem like Thompson had prolonged contact with Tamou's eye when, in real time, it was only fleeting. He puts it to the panel that an eye gouge could not have occurred with momentary contact.

He reminds the panel of Tamou's own evidence saying he did not feel pressure into his eye and says based on the video evidence: "You can't be satisfied that the fingers … are actually in his eye".

"All you can be satisfied with is the fingers were about the facial area," he continues.

Ghabar then claims there was "no force" from Thompson and "with respect, no risk of injury at all".

7.14pm: McGrath highlights the fact Tamou used the phrase "eye gouge" when he spoke to referee Henry Perenara on the field. Given play continued for two minutes between when the incident occurred and when Tamou was able to make a proper complaint, McGrath posits the Penrith forward had plenty of time to think about what occurred and decide against making the allegation. McGrath says "sometimes it's what people say and do at the time" that is most telling.

7.05pm: Thompson has now finished answering questions.

McGrath makes it clear that he is not accusing Thompson of performing a "raking motion". Instead, he claims Thompson had to have known his fingers came into contact with Tamou's eye and purposefully left them there, applying pressure to the eye socket.

"I don't suggest for a moment that he entered the tackle with player Tamou with that intention," McGrath says, stating that Thompson "briefly" but deliberately applied pressure to the eye.

Although he accepts no damage occurred, McGrath argues Thompson nonetheless made dangerous contact.

Thompson on report for alleged eye-gouge

6.57pm: With Tamou being a taller man, Thompson says his only intention was to "get over [Tamou's] shoulder" as he attempted to wrestle him to the turf. "I've not realised that I'm touching his face at all," he says.

Thompson has spoken in a soft tone at points and is told to "shout if you need to" so panel member Bob Linder, who is dialling in, can hear him properly.

6.45pm: Thompson claims he was struggling to get Tamou to the ground because Josh Jackson, who was also tackling up top, was pulling in the opposite direction. He says he had no awareness of his right hand being in contact with Tamou's face and didn't realise there was any issue until much later. "I wasn't even aware of what he [Tamou] was complaining about."

6.55pm: With Tamou being a taller man, Thompson says his only intention was to "get over [Tamou's] shoulder" as he attempted to wrestle him to the turf. "I've not realised that I'm touching his face at all," he says. Thompson has spoken in a soft tone at points and is told to "shout if you need to" so panel member Bob Linder, who is dialling in, can hear him properly.

6.35pm: McGrath confirms he is basing his case on Thompson allegedly intentionally eye gouging Tamou. Nick Ghabar begins quizzing Tamou, who says he didn't experience any irritation in his eye in the minutes following the incident.

Tamou is experiencing a few internet connection issues but hasn't wavered in his stance. Ghabar asks if Tamou felt pressure being applied to his eye or eye socket, felt a raking motion from Thompson or was inconvenienced at all. Tamou answers no to all and is now off the line.

Thompson is now giving evidence.

6.24pm: Tamou continues supporting Thompson, saying he is "only here tonight" addressing the judiciary because he doesn't believe the Englishman tried to inflict any real harm.

"It didn't do any damage to my eye, my eye was fine during the game and after it," he says. "There are levels to it. I don't think there was any motive."

McGrath reminds Tamou to stay away from "trying to put ourselves in someone else's mind."

The Panthers prop says Thompson told him after the game that he was simply trying to take him to the ground when the incident occurred. He adds that if he thought Thompson would "go into his next game trying to do that [eye gouge] to the next person", he wouldn't be backing him up.

6.14pm: James Tamou is on the line. Asked by NRL counsel McGrath about the incident, he says his main concern afterwards was trying to get a penalty from referee Henry Perenara. He says he doesn't think Thompson eye gouged him intentionally before McGrath steers him back to talking about what he initially felt in the tackle.

6.05pm: We're underway with Thompson's case. The Bulldogs prop is sitting alongside Ghabar in the hearing room. Footage of the incident is being shown as evidence.

5.45pm: The judiciary panel will consist of Ben Creagh, Bob Lindner and Sean Garlick. Legal eagle Nick Ghabar is representing both Luke Thompson and Max King while Peter McGrath is the NRL counsel.

5.30pm: Thompson has pleaded not guilty to an eye gouge charge stemming from an incident with Panthers captain James Tamou in Canterbury's 42-0 loss on Saturday.

The Englishman was referred straight to the judiciary by the match review committee, charged with allegedly making contact with Tamou's eyes in the 13th minute at ANZ Stadium.

Tamou complained to referee Henry Perenara at the time, resulting in Thompson being placed on report, but later said he believed it wasn't intentional and he hoped "nothing comes of it".

King, meanwhile, has pleaded guilty to a dangerous contact charge after he was also referred directly to the judiciary for a "hip drop" tackle on Blake Lawrie in Sunday's loss to the Dragons.

The judiciary will decide on his grading and punishment, with King's chance to feature in Melbourne's finals campaign potentially on the line.

The direct referral gives the panel the power to hit King with a charge greater than grade three dangerous contact, however they could deem it to be a lesser offence.

King's Storm teammate Jesse Bromwich was suspended for a "hip drop" tackle last month, copping a one-match ban after unsuccessfully challenging a grade one offence.

Dragons back-rower Tyrell Fuimaono was suspended for two games for a hip drop on the same night as Bromwich as he failed to get his grade two charge downgraded.

NRL head of football Graham Annesley sent a memo to all clubs on July 21 warning about the worrying tackling technique where a defender plunges their lower-body onto the back of the ball runner's exposed legs in an attempt to bring them to ground.