A CAT has been thrown among the Group Seven finals pigeons after Shellharbour Sharks skipper Matt Carroll was suspended for five matches at Wednesday evening's judiciary hearing.
During his side's 68-nil win against the Stingrays of Shellharbour on Sunday at Ron Costello Oval, the hosts were forced to finish the match with 12-men after Carroll was sent from the field by referee Michael Booth close to the 50th minute.
Booth first gave Carroll 10 minutes in the sin-bin - a decision which dumbfounded the Sharks skipper, after he was apparently simply asking him a question, which is within his rights as captain.
But on his way to the sideline, Carroll is alleged to have said "this is a joke", which saw Booth call Carroll back and send him off the rest of the round 16 match.
As he was sent off, Carroll was referred to Wednesday night's judiciary hearing at Kiama Leagues Club.
It was there referee Booth claimed Carroll allegedly called him a "cheat" on the field, which led the judiciary handing the 2018 premiership winner a five-match suspension.
The sentence would effectively rule Carroll out for the remainder of the 2019 Group Seven season, which only has two regular season rounds remaining and a four-week finals series.
Carroll was visually distraught after the decision.
It is understood the Sharks are planning to appeal Carroll's five-week suspension with Country Rugby League.
No recordings of the alleged incident were presented to the Group Seven judiciary.
This decision comes one week after Nowra-Bomaderrry's Jake Gould was suspended for three weeks for a similar offence.
Going into the penultimate round of the regular season, Shellharbour currently sit in first spot on 25 points, ahead of Jamberoo (25) on for and against - with Gerringong (24), Kiama (21) and Nowra-Bomaderry (21) rounding out the top-five.