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Proctor cops four-week biting ban, faces further sanction with Johnson

Titans captain Kevin Proctor has been served a four-game suspension for biting Shaun Johnson but both players may yet face further sanction for publicly discussing the case prior to the hearing.

Proctor was found guilty of biting Johnson at the judiciary on Tuesday night and handed a four-week suspension despite the Sharks star and Kiwi teammate testifying on his behalf, claiming that upon review his first thoughts that he had been bitten were a mistake.

"My arm was pressuring against his mouth," Johnson told the judiciary.

"I felt like I got bit and that's why I reacted the way I did at the time.

"As the match when I on, I thought it didn't really make sense. At the time it happened it felt like I got bit."

Panellists Bob Lindner, Ben Creagh and Sean Garlick took just eight minutes to hand down their verdict after a marathon, and at times farcical two-plus hours of evidence from NRL counsel Peter McGrath and Proctor's lawyer Tim Fuller.

The four-game ban for Proctor falls well short of previous lengthy suspensions for biting – namely James Graham's 12-game ban in 2012 and Brad Morrin's eight-game suspension in 2007.

Proctor, 31, had a 25 per cent discount applied to his punishment for going seven years without a previous incident in the game, with NRL counsel recommending a 4-6 week suspension.

Proctor sent off in game 250 for alleged bite

McGrath pointed to Johnson's initial angry reaction over the incident and contrasted that with a line of questioning that Johnson's recanting was based on his friendship with Proctor once he realised he had "opened a box that he couldn't put everything back in".

Johnson denied this under questioning. Asked if he believed "what happens on the field should stay on the field", Johnson said "I like to be believe that". 

The Sharks five-eighth said "the fact it was Kevvy" had formed the basis of his re-thinking, despite McGrath pointing out "you knew it was Kevin all along" when he had first claimed to have been bitten, and then proceeded to abuse Proctor on the field.

McGrath conceded there "wasn't a Jaws-like chomp" from Proctor but showed vision of Johnson grimacing at the time in what he dubbed an expression of pain."

Proctor maintained that "I was struggling for air and opening my mouth was only way to get it" and rejected all suggestions of any making any biting motion – deliberately or otherwise.

He also referenced sinus issues that prevent him from breathing through his nose.

Asked why he didn't just shift his head backwards or sideways to be able to breath, Proctor said: "I opened my mouth and he just got tighter with his grip. He doesn't let go of my head the whole time. I'm just trying to gasp for air."

Both Proctor and Johnson are also facing further sanction for breaching NRL judiciary rules having publicly discussed the case before Proctor's hearing.

NRL.com understands financial punishments are being considered by the governing body after Proctor gave multiple interviews protesting his innocence, while Johnson took to Instagram to defend him as well.

Judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew gave the pair a dressing down when proceedings concluded.

"It is not for players to conduct their defence in the media," Bellew said.

"The players are provided with this forum that we are in at the moment for that purpose."

Fuller was also called out by Bellew for several inappropriate lines of questioning, at one point reprimanding him for prefacing a question to Johnson with a compliment for answering inquiries "honestly".

Bellew also chastised Proctor's lawyer for asking questions based on false premises, asking the same question twice and pursuing "irrelevant" angles.

The hearing was even delayed by 90 minutes of debate over what evidence could be presented by NRL counsel and Fuller – with a prepared statement from Johnson deemed inadmissible.

Referee Henry Perenara was also cross-examined in line with his referees' report from Cronulla's 30-18 win, in which Perenara confirmed asking to inspect Johnson's arm and seeing a "red mark".

"There was a red mark in a circular motion and I did not see any teeth marks," Perenara said.

NRL counsel McGrath said that for Proctor to be found guilty, the panel did necessarily need to to believe that there was an "indentation" left on Johnson's arm.

But under the dangerous contact charge, could suspend Proctor if they found that there was contact, that it was dangerous, and that it was was intentional.

Proctor is without a contract for next season and NRL.com understands is yet to move beyond informal talks about an extension with the Titans.

His sidelining is a significant blow in his bid for a new deal, however coach Justin Holbrook indicated prior to Proctor's hearing that the incident would not impact his standing in the club's recruitment and retention plans.

Proctor will be free to play again from round 19 with the Gold Coast playing Manly and Newcastle in the final two rounds.