Storm fullback Billy Slater has to miss the grand final

In the 14th minute of Friday night's preliminary final between the Sharks and Storm, with Melbourne leading by a solitary penalty goal, Billy Slater launched himself at a flying Sosaia Feki and put him into the third row. It prevented a certain Cronulla try.

Not so long ago everyone would have been applauding Slater's try-saving desperation, but the rules have changed and they are quite clear. A player must use his arms when making a tackle - Slater clearly did not.

Slater has been charged with a grade one shoulder charge which carries 200 points or 100 with an early guilty plea. Each 100 points equals a one-game suspension, and there is no allowance made if that game turns out to be a grand final. There is also no allowance made for that game being the last ever played by a champion.

The subject of raising grand finals and representative games above regular club games, when it comes to dealing out suspensions, rears its ugly head every time a big name player misses a major game. The NRL has had years to get this right. If it is wrong for Slater to miss a grand final for this offence, then the points system should have been changed to make such an allowance.

Players, ex-players, coaches and commentators have come out saying that Slater should be cleared and allowed to play in the grand final. Australia coach Mal Meninga said he hoped common sense prevailed and Slater was allowed to play.

Slater himself thought he had little choice but to make contact in the way he did.

"I was going across in desperation to save the try," Slater said after the match. "I was at top speed. Sosaia Feki was at top speed. I actually thought he was going to step inside me so that's why I got my body in an unconventional position.

"It's pretty hard to make a conventional tackle when you're going across at top speed trying to stop a try. It was just an unfortunate collision."

It was unfortunate, very unfortunate, but it was against the rules. Rules that were introduced to protect players from the unnecessarily brutal impact associated with shoulder charges.

Slater will fight the charge, represented by the lawyer who successfully argued Justin Hodges' appeal three years ago in a similar situation. It was similar in that Hodges was also set to miss the grand final, but Hodges was being punished for a questionable dangerous throw tackle. There is very little question that Slater hit Feki with a shoulder charge.

Slater has to fight the charge, it is the only way he can have his fairytale farewell. A lap of honour after winning a premiership is how every player dreams of leaving the game, just ask Michael Ennis, Mal Meninga, Ray Price, Michael Cronin and others who have hung up the boots on the ultimate high.

Unfortunately Slater won't be joining their ranks, he simply has to miss the grand final. The judiciary cannot be seen to be doing him any favours just because of his status in the game. The integrity of the judiciary and its whole system of charges and penalties is on the line.

The grand final will be less of a spectacle without one of the game's greatest ever players. The Storm will also face a tougher battle to claim the title without their most lethal attacking weapon and the fans will miss out on seeing him play one last game on the biggest club stage.

But only one person could have prevented this outcome and that was Slater. He had to use his arms in that tackle.