Melbourne Storm prop Jordan McLean has been banned for seven weeks after being found guilty of committing a 'dangerous throw' tackle on Alex McKinnon of Newcastle Knights.
The 22-year-old was one of three players that brought McKinnon down in a tackle and resulted in a broken neck for the Newcastle forward, but McLean is the only one to face a judicial hearing.
McKinnon, who may never walk again, underwent surgery last week and has been in a serious but stable condition in a hospital and communicated with his family on Sunday for the first time since being revived from an induced coma.
McLean pleaded not guilty to the throwing charge at the hearing in Sydney on Wednesday, his lawyer arguing that McKinnon had been the victim of a "terrible and tragic accident".
After a number of video replays from various angles, the three-man panel found McLean guilty, and NRL judicial counsel Peter Kite asked for a sanction of between seven and 11 matches.
The panel returned the sanction after deliberating for nearly an hour and a half.
The NRL and Australian Rugby Union have worked to crack down on "lifting" tackles due to the dangers of spinal and head trauma.
McKinnon's plight has prompted an outpouring of sympathy in Australia, with an emotional tribute from Newcastle fans during the team's home match against Cronulla Sharks earlier this week.
McLean has the sympathy of some NRL players who regarded the incident a freak accident.
"As a player and speaking to all other players, we really don't think there was a lot in the tackle," Sharks captain Paul Gallen said.
"It's just an absolute tragic accident that has happened. It's the most unfortunate thing I've ever seen in rugby league.
"Unfortunately for Jordan he's stuck in the middle of it."
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