Johns cops 2, Tallis in strife

Newcastle halfback Andrew Johns will sit out his side?s remaining two games of the 2006 premiership but will be free to play in the finals after having his contrary conduct charge downgraded at the NRL judiciary tonight.

Johns was suspended for two matches for calling sideline official Matt Cecchin a "f---ing c--t" during the Knights' 16-14 loss to Manly at EnewrgyAustralia Stadium last week. The grade-three contrary conduct charge was downgraded to grade two, which carried a 295 point penalty including his 93 carry over points.

Prior to the downgrade, Johns was facing a four-game ban for the grade-three charge, which would have wiped him out until week three of the finals had the Knights progressed that far without him.

After initially refusing to apologise for the incident in the days following the heated exchange, which occurred as Johns led a chorus of protests about a missed knock-on, Johns opened his defence by expressing his contrition.

"I feel a lot of remorse for what happened ... I'm so sorry," Johns said only days after writing in his weekly column in The Sunday Telegraph that Cechin should apologise for him.

He also wrote a letter to Cecchin today in which he apologised unreservedly.

Judiciary chairman Greg Woods instructed his three-man panel of Scott Tronc, Darren Britt and Darrell Williams to take into account Johns's apology when reaching their verdict, saying the match review committee had not had the benefit of the apology when issuing the charge.

Meanwhile, former Brisbane, Queensland and Australia forward Gorden Tallis's future on the NRL board is in jeopardy over an alleged assault of a bar staffer at a Brisbane pub.

In another major embarrassment for the game, police said today they were investigating a complaint made over the alleged incident at the Regatta Hotel at Toowong in inner-west Brisbane early on Monday.

Former Brisbane captain Tallis, 33, said he was having drinks with his wife Christine when the latest alleged Regatta incident occurred. He said while making no admission or accepting any blame, that he later apologised to the hotel manager and the male staff member concerned.

It's believed a glass was thrown at the bar staffer when Tallis was refused service. NRL chief executive David Gallop said today that Tallis had advised the board about the matter, which is expected to be discussed at the next board meeting early next month.

Tallis was appointed to the NRL board after he retired in 2004 following eight seasons with the Broncos.

Recently, current Brisbane players Brett Seymour, who is yet to be charged by police, and Neville Costigan last week had their contracts terminated. Both players were described by Broncos chief executive Bruno Cullen as "serial offenders".