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17 hours ago
Australian captain Andrew Johns admitted he had "crossed the line" and was paying the price for his carelessness in Newcastle's explosive National Rugby League clash with Wests Tigers.
Johns emerged from three days out of the public eye to speak for the first time about his head-slamming tackle on Tigers centre Mark O'Halloran that earned the champion halfback a two-match suspension.
The Knights skipper conceded it had been an easy decision to plead guilty to contrary conduct, rather than fight the charge at the NRL judiciary.
"I think it was pretty cut and dried - plead guilty and just take the two weeks," Johns said.
"It's just a fine line.
"I think if you look at my tackle ... I play pretty physical and I play aggressively and you're taught to be dominant in the tackle, to try to put them on their back to slow them up.
And I just crossed the line a little bit and I'm paying the consequences Johns' suspension has cost him the lead in the Dally M race and will seriously endanger his prospects of winning league's best-and-fairest player award for a fourth time.
Under Dally M rules, a player is docked three points for every week he is suspended and deemed ineligible if suspended more than once during the season.
Johns' early-season ban means he has slipped from the clear lead to three points behind new frontrunner, Canberra fullback Clinton Schifcofske - and is on his last chance.
But while claiming "it'd be too hard to win from here", Johns said he couldn't care less about the coveted individual award.
"I don't wake up Monday mornings and read the Dally Ms," he said.
"It's not even a consideration. It's not what motivates me at all.
"I've said it before, my goals are all team-related. So whatever happens, happens."
More important to Johns is for the depleted Knights - who will field a team stacked with rookies against Melbourne at Olympic Park on Saturday night - to prove once and for all they are not a one-man band.
He is fed up with talk the Knights can't win without him.
"I'm sick to death of it and the club and all the boys are, so there is only one way to stop it and that is to go out there and win," the Newcastle captain said.
"And that's what I expect we'll do."