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Former first grade rugby league player and coach Warren Ryan told a court on today that Stephen Kearney clearly lifted Jarrod McCracken in the tackle the former Wests Tigers player says prematurly ended his career.
McCracken is suing, Kearney, Kearney's then club the Melbourne Storm and Kearney's teammate Marcus Bai in the NSW Supreme Court for more than $750,000 in damages over the tackle on May 12, 2000.
The former New Zealand captain says the spear tackle was intentional and done with intent to cause injury.
Mr Ryan was called as an expert witness to give his opinion on the tackle.
He said it was clear from a video of the tackle that Stephen Kearney lifted McCracken by grabbing hold of one leg.
"He's lifting him, otherwise how would a sixteen-and-a-half stone man end up in the air?" he said.
When counsel for Kearney and Bai, Robert Sheldon, suggested that it was merely his clients' momentum that caused McCracken to become airborne, Mr Ryan could not be swayed.
"You can't change my opinion, that's my opinion ...," he said.
"You're trying to turn a lifting tackle into a non-lifting tackle."
Mr Sheldon also put it to Mr Ryan that the tackle was not intentional but merely happened in the "classic heat of the moment in rugby league circumstances".
"This is anything but classic rugby league," Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan said it was also highly unlikely that Kearney would not have known of Bai's presence when he joined him in the tackle.
"It's about his 6,000th front on tackle," Mr Ryan said.
"He's aware of Bai."
At the time of the incident, McCracken was on a two-year contract for the 2000 and 2001 seasons on a fee of $300,000 a year.
"By reason of the injuries sustained in the subject tackle, the plaintiff was prevented from returning to playing professional rugby league football and his employer, Wests Tigers, terminated its playing contract with the plaintiff," according to his McCracken's statement of claim, tendered to the court.
McCracken said earlier in the hearing that he would have continued his professional rugby league career, either in England or the NRL, if he had not been injured.