With their NRL finals hopes hanging by a thread Newcastle will be without their best forward for the remainder of the season with Kane Snowden facing a potential nine-game ban for his shoulder charge on North Queensland’s Ray Thompson.
The former NSW and Test forward, who has been one of the Knights most consistent performers this season, was slugged with a grade four charge following the incident that left the young Cowboys hooker with a broken jaw on Saturday.
Snowden was sent off for the challenge in his side’s 26-6 loss in Townsville and on Monday the NRL’s match review committee came down hard on the 26-year-old.
The charge carries a base penalty of 650 points, which would incur a six-match ban but the prop has two non-similar prior offences, meaning he has 40 per cent loading on the charge plus 48 carry-over points.
This would leave him facing seven weeks on the sidelines with an early guilty plea or nine matches if he fights the charge at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday and loses.
Canterbury prop Frank Pritchard was also sanctioned for his shoulder charge to the head of South Sydney centre Bryson Goodwin during his side’s loss to the Rabbitohs on Friday.
The Kiwi prop has been hit with a grade two charge after catching his former Bulldogs teammate flush across the chin at ANZ Stadium as his side went down to a 28-20 defeat.
Pritchard will be unavailable for the final games of the NRL season if he pleads guilty and will serve a two-match ban, rising to three if he appears before the judiciary and loses.
However, he will be available to return for the finals, which his side will be assured of featuring in with a win against Canberra this weekend.
Snowden is the first player to be hit with a heavy penalty for a shoulder charge, which was outlawed from the game at the end of last year.
Parramatta’s Fuifui Moimoi was the first to fall foul of the new regulations and missed one game following an incident in Tonga’s win over Samoa in a one-off Test in Penrith last April.
Losing Snowden will be a huge blow for the Knights who currently sit in seventh spot, one point ahead of a chasing pack of five clubs and with a tricky trip to Brisbane on Friday for a must-win game.
Despite being given the funds by Nathan Tinkler to bring the likes of Darius Boyd, Dane Gagai, Jeremy Smith, Beau Scott and Snowden to the club, since his arrival in 2012, missing the finals for a second successive season would represent a rare failure for Bennett.
Last year was the first time in 21 years a side of his were not in the finals and side coached by the seven-time premiership winner has never missed the top eight in successive seasons.
Newcastle’s New Zealand enforcer Smith made his feelings known about the charge on Twitter, labelling the decision a “joke”.
Both clubs have until midday on Tuesday to decide if they will fight the charges or appear before the NRL judiciary on Wednesday evening.