'Up to the refs': Bellamy hits back at Slater diving accusations

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has come to the defence of Billy Slater, reminding critics it's the NRL referees who determine sin-bins not the star fullback.

Slater was criticised over the weekend by rugby league legends Brad Fittler and Peter Sterling, who claimed he had dived to draw the sin-binning of opposition players for professional fouls after taking quick taps.

The Storm fullback has twice been at the centre of sin-binnings in the past three weeks, after he fell to the ground following seemingly light contact with Cronulla's Luke Lewis in round four before a similar incident with Newcastle's Lachlan Fitzgibbon on Friday night.

Friday's call prompted Knights veteran Chris Heighington to claim referees should be alert to the apparent trend surrounding Slater.

Under NRL rules, referees can sin bin a player if they deem he has committed a professional foul by "interfering" with a rival after he has taken a quick tap.

And Bellamy said that was for referees to interpret.

Craig Bellamy. Pic: Getty

"We've had pretty strong email there two or three weeks ago - from I think it was (referees' coach) Michael Maguire - that anyone interfering with guys who take quick taps will be sent to the sin bin," Bellamy said.

"It's up to the referees on how much contact you need for that to be interference.

"There was certainly contact made in both instances. And obviously the referees at the time decided there was enough contact to put the offender in the sin-bin. That's out of our hands."

Meanwhile, Bellamy indicated he'd be open to welcoming off-contract rugby star Israel Folau back to the club if he left the 15-man code over his controversial social media comments on homosexuality.

Bellamy handed Folau his debut at Melbourne in 2007 before he left for Brisbane and ultimately the AFL and rugby union, and said any club would obviously want him.

Folau earlier this week revealed he was prepared to walk away from the 15-man code over the incident, but denied he was angling for a return to the NRL.

Bellamy is not of the belief Folau would leave union - particularly given he hasn't been sanctioned - but said the 29-year-old would always be welcome back at Melbourne.

"That's something for Israel and the ARU to work out. But if he did want to change codes, I'm sure we could find him a house here in Melbourne," Bellamy said.

"At the end of the day he's a wonderful player and wonderful athlete. Whatever code he's going to play he's going to be very successful at.

"I really can't see that being that big of an issue that he is going to quit rugby union. They understand how important he is to their game."


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