Canberra Raiders forward Hudson Young is facing a nervous wait after footage showed his hands near the eyes of New Zealand Warriors centre Adam Pompey on Saturday.
The first-half incident went largely unnoticed in the Warriors' 24-20 win in Canberra on Saturday until broadcaster Fox Sports replayed it with just 15 minutes left in the match.
Young was not reported by the referees, but will find out on Sunday morning if he is facing another suspension after being banned for five weeks for a similar incident earlier this year.
Coach Ricky Stuart called for calm after television commentators called for excessive bans, Stuart saying he was disappointed Young's hand was on Pompey's face but "don't start hanging the kid".
Young, 21, is in danger of a lengthy suspension and missing the finals, with the Raiders to start their play-off campaign with a clash against Melbourne next weekend.
But the NRL judiciary has been inconsistent in penalising "hands in the face" incidents.
Josh McGuire was fined twice, Young was banned for five weeks and George Burgess was suspended for nine weeks.
"The NRL have shown where they stand with a hand on the face," Stuart said.
"Hudson did not gouge Pompey. If you get an eye gouge you reel out of it. If you get an eye gouge your first reaction is you go straight for the eye.
"I'm not happy that his hand was on the face. At worst case he will get fined because the NRL have already set the precedent with Josh McGuire, twice. Not once, twice.
"I'm disappointed Hudson's hand was on the face, but don't start hanging the kid and listening to commentators that want him to have 20 weeks, which is absolutely ridiculous.
"That is just heat of the moment commentary. The NRL have made the precedent that a hand on the face, which is uncalled for and I totally agree with the situation - we don't want it in the game."
Young told Stuart after the match he did not eye gouge Pompey.
"I went straight to him and asked him if it was a gouge. He said 'no'," Stuart said.
Pompey did not react on the field after scoring a try. Fox Sports commentator Brett Finch unleashed on Young, describing it as a "disgrace" and "garbage".
"Watch these hands. they come in there for another crack. He's gone," Finch said in commentary.
"He's got serious issues. He's done it before and it's absolute garbage. It's rubbish. That's not what our game is about. That is a disgraceful act.
"Look at the pressure on his eyes, that is terrible. [Adam Pompey] should react, he should put one straight on his chin. This is a bloke who's spent five weeks on the sideline.
"You can't touch the eyes of an opposing player ... that's just crap. It's really poor.
"He could go anywhere from 12-20 weeks. Why shouldn't he? He's done it before ... he went for two cracks at it. George Burgess got eight weeks. That's really poor, we don't need that in our game. It's a disgraceful act in my opinion."
Warriors coach Stephen Kearny said: "It's not a good look ... it wasn't pretty."
The incident added to a frustrating day for the Raiders, who were stunned in a four-point loss at Canberra Stadium.
It means the Raiders will finish fourth on the ladder and play against minor premiers the Melbourne Storm in Melbourne in the first week of the finals.
The Warriors scored with four minutes to go to beat the Raiders, ruining Canberra's hopes of finishing third on the ladder.
The Raiders were expected to charge over the Warriors in the last round of the regular season to set up a showdown with the Sydney Roosters in week one of the finals.
They fired in patches, but Blake Green scored the match winner with time running out and the Raiders dropped to fourth on the ladder.
Canberra will now play against the minor premier Melbourne Storm in Melbourne on Saturday next week, with the winner advancing to a preliminary final.
Young will have to wait until Sunday morning to learn if he has been charged by the match review committee.
Corey Horsburgh (ankle) and Michael Oldfield (shoulder) also suffered injuries on a chilly day in the capital.
The result, injuries and Young's incident aside, the Raiders still finished in the top four for just the second time in 16 years.
Stuart rested key players Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jordan Rapana, Sia Soliola and John Bateman, while Joe Tapine (ribs) and Joey Leilua (suspension) are also due to make their comebacks next weekend.
AT A GLANCE
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS 24 (Lachlan Burr, Adam Pompey, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Blake Green tries; Issac Luke 4 goals) bt CANBERRA RAIDERS 20 (Sebastian Kris, Josh Papalii, Josh Hodgson, Michael Oldfield tries; Jarrod Croker 2 goals) at Canberra Stadium on Saturday. Crowd: 13,331.