Brisbane fullback Reece Walsh has been suspended for three matches and will miss Origin III after being found guilty of contrary conduct towards a match official.
Walsh was refereed directly to the judiciary on the contrary conduct charge following Brisbane’s 18-12 loss to Gold Coast on Sunday.
On-field microphones recorded Walsh yelling “What the f*** do you mean, c***?” directly after Butler blew an obstruction penalty.
But on Tuesday night the defence’s case rested on the claim he had actually been addressing teammate Patrick Carrigan.
Walsh said Carrigan had approached him and told him to “slow your f***ing brain” so as not to give away more penalties, to which Walsh reacted with the profanity.
As the two players closest to the outburst, Carrigan and Titans forward David Fifita both gave evidence via video link.
But when both admitted to having spoken to Walsh about the incident beforehand, the judiciary chose not to give weight to their testimony.
Fifita initially said Walsh had directed his comment to the referee before backtracking when probed by Mr Bellew.
“I just get real nervous when I speak to youse,” Fifita said.
“I just get intimidated by speaking to you because I think I’m in the wrong.”
The NRL’s counsel Patrick Knowles believed Walsh approaching the referee to clarify he had been “talking to Patty” proved the fullback knew he had gone too far in his comments to the referee.
He also questioned whether Walsh’s outburst would have been a proportional response to Carrigan approaching him to give him advice.
“It’s much more likely that person, who by his own admission can be volatile, was reacting to the referee,” Knowles said.
Knowles also lashed parts of Walsh’s evidence as “demonstrably untrue” and “frankly incredulous”, especially the suggestion he had not been complaining about the obstruction penalty when he first approached Butler.
After a hearing that lasted two hours and 40 minutes on Tuesday night, the two-man judiciary panel of Penrith great Tony Puletua and Sean Hampstead deliberated for an hour and was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.
Judiciary chair Geoffrey Bellew SC cast a deciding vote as to Walsh’s guilt and was satisfied on the balance of probability Walsh had been addressing Butler and not Carrigan.
The NRL’s counsel proposed a ban of four matches, with Walsh’s defence suggesting a one-game suspension, before three was reached.
The fullback will miss Saturday’s clash against the Dolphins, Origin III and the clash with Canterbury in round 20.
Walsh read a prepared statement to the media after the decision came down.
“I am disappointed with the outcome but I accept the decision of the panel,” he said.
“Obviously I know that I’m a role model to young kids in the community and I’m going to continue to work hard and be better in those areas that I need to get better at.”
His suspension is a blow for the Broncos, who will be without Origin prop Thomas Flegler and backrower Jordan Riki for Saturday’s clash with the Dolphins at the Gabba.
Riki is expected to miss 6-8 weeks due to plantar fasciitis while Flegler will be out for 3-4 weeks with a linsfrac injury.
As for Queensland it means a race to replace Walsh at fullback with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and AJ Brimson the leading contenders, although winger Selwyn Cobbo could also play fullback.
Walsh’s predecessor Kalyn Ponga has already ruled himself out of the Origin series to focus on club duties with Newcastle.