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Storm accept Jahrome Hughes ban, insist referee contact was accidental

Martin Gabor -

Melbourne Storm chose against challenging Jahrome Hughes' ban for making contact with a referee despite a consensus the halfback did nothing wrong swayed by memories of an unsuccessful judiciary effort last year and the potential return of Cameron Munster to offset his loss.

NRL premiership winner Michael Ennis said it was "absolute stupidity" to hit the halfback with a grade 2 contrary conduct charge for simply doing his job to try to tackle Rocco Berry, who would have scored had Hughes not pushed Butler out of the way to make the tackle.

There was a similar incident on Friday night when Bulldogs back-rower Viliame Kikau was denied a certain try because Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski got in a bad position and blocked Cronulla's Braydon Trindall from making a tackle.

But Hughes will now miss Sunday's clash with the Knights, club officials opting to take the ban after losing a fight 12 months ago against a dangerous contact charge on Tanah Boyd which resulted in a two-match ban.

The Storm have reluctantly accepted the suspension. Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The Storm have reluctantly accepted the suspension. Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

"Whilst both Jahrome and the club fully support and totally endorse the protection of referees in our game, we believe Saturday's incident was an accident," a Storm statement read.

"Further, we believe the contact was unavoidable and the grading on the incident was too harsh given the circumstances where Jahrome was concentrating on making an important tackle in the context of the game and not fixated on the movements of the referee.

"Jahrome has reached out to referee, Chris Butler, to apologise and reinforce that his actions were unintentional.

"We acknowledge the system is in place to avoid judiciary hearings but, in this case, we believe the risk of the penalty for contesting the charge is too high considering the circumstances of the incident.

"In the end, the threat of an extra week suspension on top of our club's bye next weekend was the overriding factor in our decision but we don't believe this is a fair outcome.

Jahrome Hughes has been charged by the match review committee for this contact on referee Chris Butler. Picture: Fox League

Jahrome Hughes has been charged by the match review committee for this contact on referee Chris Butler. Picture: Fox League

The Storm faces the Knights on Sunday and then have the bye, with the Broncos waiting for them in round 5.

Jonah Pezet could now shift to halfback with the club not ruling Munster out from making a shock return this week from the groin injury that forced him to miss the first two rounds of the season.

"Given we've got the bye, if he's not close to or 100 per cent then we probably won't play him," Storm general manager of football Frank Ponissi said on Monday.

"He's looking pretty good, but we'll see how he goes. He's training today, so we'll see how he pulls up.

"We might name him tomorrow and make a decision later in the week."

Xavier Coates' try might be the greatest of all time. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Xavier Coates' try might be the greatest of all time. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

The Storm has managed to get the job done without Munster in both of their games against competition heavyweights the Panthers and the Warriors, with winger Xavier Coates scoring one of the greatest tries of all time on Saturday night.

Melbourne has scored some impossible tries at the death, with Ponissi recalling a Will Chambers try on the buzzer in 2012 and Young Tonumaipea's incredible team effort to stun the Dragons after the full-time siren in 2014.

Greg Inglis also scored a famous try to keep their season alive against Brisbane in the 2008 finals, but the sheer athleticism of this one has it on top for Ponissi, who has seen it all since he joined the club at the end of 2007.

"In terms of individual brilliance, I have to say this even beats GI's try because of the individual feat whereas the 2008 one was so important in terms of the game because our season was on the line," he said.

"That one was a better team try, but from an individual perspective, I'd have to have Xavier's on top.

"The only one that compares is the Brett Morris one (in 2014 against Cronulla), but I have to put Xavier's on top because of the context of the game.

"His entire body was out, except for the ball."

Xavier Coates leapt from 6m out and still managed to get the ball down. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Xavier Coates leapt from 6m out and still managed to get the ball down. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Coates' heroics have gone global, but the gravity-defying play was no fluke.

"He gets the big crash mats out and practises it in the corner at training," Ponissi said.

"Of course you need an ounce of luck, but hard workers get lucky, and that's because he's worked hard, backed himself and had the confidence to do it in an incredible situation."

Martin Gabor - NCA NewsWire

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