Overnight Wrap

A leading cardiologist has warned the NRL it is only a matter of time before a player dies as the result of a grapple tackle following a landmark night at the NRL judiciary last night.

South Sydney called in Dr Chris Semsarian as an expert witness in what was ultimately an unsuccessful bid to clear second rower David Fa'alogo of a striking charge.

Fa'alogo will miss seven matches after having his case thrown out while earlier in the night Sonny Bill Williams had his striking charge downgraded, the Bulldogs star to miss just this weekend's qualifying final against North Queensland in Townsville.

Fa'alogo's defence for his king hit on Sydney Roosters pivot Braith Anasta was based on the fact he had suffered acute brain hypoxia as a result of a grapple tackle in the lead-up.

Semsarian, a leading cardiologist at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, says the term "grapple" is too weak to describe the tackle and should be replaced by words like strangulation, asphyxiation, suffocation and choking.

Meanwhile, a relieved Bulldogs team is this morning flying to Townsville to prepare for Saturday's qualifying final against North Queensland at Dairy Farmers Stadium.

Dogs superstar Sonny Bill Williams last night had his striking charge downgraded by the NRL judiciary, meaning he will only miss his side's first final should it progress beyond Week 1.

Fullback Luke Patten says the side can step up after last week's loss to the Cowboys and cover for Williams. Another loss for the sixth placed Dogs would mean elimination if South Sydney beat Manly or Brisbane upset Melbourne.

Across town, Parramatta coach Michael Hagan says he won't be curbing the flamboyant playing style of his young stars in tomorrow night's opening qualifying final against the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland.

Hagan says he has full confidence in talented trio Jarryd Hayne, Krisnan Inu and Feleti Mateo and will not be asking them to take fewer risks just because the stakes are higher at Mt Smart Stadium.

The Eels have plenty of confidence after last week's spectacular thumping of Brisbane but HAGAN is expecting and prepared to grind out a result against the fourth-placed Warriors. The Eels are having their final training session at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium this morning.


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