THE Ipswich Jets have received a huge boost to their semi-finals prospects with captain Keiron Lander cleared of a contrary conduct charge.
Lander faced the Queensland Rugby League judiciary last night to fight the charge, which stemmed from an incident in last weekend's loss to the Northern Pride in Cairns.
It means Lander is available to play in tomorrow's must-win match against Redcliffe at the North Ipswich Reserve.
Lose and the Jets' season is over.
Win and the Jets play in the elimination semi the following weekend.
Lander was charged for reacting after receiving a punch from Pride fullback Hezron Murgha.
Murgha received 10 minutes in the sin bin, as did Lander, who also required 12 stitches while in the bin.
After getting hit, Lander got up and started swinging, though he didn't appear to land a punch, so much as grapple with his opposition.
It is probably why he faced a contrary contact charge instead of a striking charge.
Had Lander fought the charge and lost, he would have received the same suspension - one week - as if he had taken an early guilty plea. So it was a no-brainer to take it to the judiciary.
Lander was defended by Jets chairman Steven Johnson who was happy with the process and delighted with the outcome.
"The charge goes back to conduct contrary to the spirit of the game," Johnson said.
"Bearing in mind it is a vigorous collision sport.
"Players will clash and contrary conduct entails not so much the initial matter, but what happens after.
"It was shown on the footage Keiron didn't carry on after he tried to hold on to the other player after being struck three times.
"He accepted being sent to the sin bin with good grace and it should have ended there."
The judiciary agreed the action taken by referee Clayton Sharpe, the most experienced in the Queensland Cup, was sufficient and no suspension was warranted.
Johnson said he was always confident Lander had a strong case to argue.
"We were confident going in because we were confident in the fairness of the system and the role of the committee," he said.
"We were treated very fairly by the adjudicator and are very happy with the process.
"Keiron is a very fair player.
"He plays within the spirit of the game and we were able to convince them he wasn't acting outside that."
There is no doubt the Jets are not the same team when Lander is absent.
Given the Jets' injury concerns, his presence will greatly improve the team's prospects of a win tomorrow.
Redcliffe are out of the finals running themselves but would like nothing more than to end the Jets' season prematurely.
A loss would see the Jets miss the semi-finals for the first time since 2010.
"It's a massive boost," Johnson said of Lander's presence in the team.
"Without Keiron in defence, our side definitely loses some shape.
"And his role as leader is instrumental in how we play.
"We're very confident we'll go on to the field on Saturday prepared to play well.
"The result should take care of itself."