WATCH: The ‘physical assault’ which led to monster ban for Newcastle Thunder and ex-Castleford Tigers man Alex Foster

Alex Foster will miss the remainder of Newcastle Thunder’s Betfred Championship season following an RFL disciplinary tribunal on Tuesday evening.

The back-row was found guilty of a grade F charge, the highest available, for making contact with referee Michael Smail in the 11th minute of the game against Bradford Bulls on July 8th.

Foster admitted the offence, a push to the back of Smail which occurred as Thunder were defending their tryline, but the severity of the grading was challenged by Thunder part of the disciplinary process after the club reviewed available footage of the incident

Taking into account the player’s previous exemplary disciplinary record and the mild nature of the contact, Thunder had hoped that whilst accepting contact with the referee was inappropriate, the grading of the offence would be reconsidered.

The tribunal however upheld the original decision and handed down the suspension which will see Foster ruled out for the rest of the season.

It is a verdict that club and player accept, but one where Thunder maintain their position with regard to the severity of the grade of charge faced and the appropriateness of the wording used around the communications surrounding the charge.

Foster said: “I apologise to Mr. Smail for the incident in the Bradford game. It was a lapse of judgement in the heat of what felt like a crucial point as we defended our line having made an excellent start.

“Referees and officials are crucial to our game, and I regret my response to my frustrations at that moment.”

Director of rugby Denis Betts said: “Having viewed the footage from the game, Alex made the appropriate guilty plea of having made inappropriate contact with a match official.

“We felt having watched both the full speed footage and the slow-motion replays, that there was a realistic case to be made for a reduction in the grading, however the tribunal disagreed. We also challenged the wording of the charge as while there was inappropriate contact with a match official, we felt the term ‘physical assault’ was excessive.

“It is an unfortunate way for Alex to have his playing season ended, but that is where we find ourselves.”

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