Cooper Cronk rejects Ivan Cleary claim after Panthers' shock loss to Tigers

The Wests Tigers scored a monumental upset over Penrith to snap their long losing streak.

Cooper Cronk, pictured here alongside Ivan Cleary and the Penrith Panthers.
Cooper Cronk has rejected Panthers coach Ivan Cleary's comments about the 'hip-drop' tackle. Image: Getty/NRL

Cooper Cronk has rejected claims from Ivan Cleary that players will need to start letting go of tackles to avoid 'hip-drops', calling on NRL coaches to coach the practice out of the game. The Panthers became the latest victim of the NRL's crackdown on 'hip-drop' tackles on Saturday night when Soni Luke was sin-binned in their shock 12-8 loss to the Wests Tigers.

The sin-binning meant the Panthers had to play the majority of the final 10 minutes with only 12 men on the field, severely hampering their chances of coming back to score a late try. By the time Luke returned to the field with two minutes remaining, the Tigers had all-but sealed the monumental upset.

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Speaking in his post-match press conference, Cleary took aim at the NRL and questioned if Luke could have done anything differently. "I've seen a few like that now and the only way you can avoid it is to let go (of the ball-carrier)," he said.

"How do you tell a footballer to let go? That's my question. It was like (Broncos five-eighth) Ezra Mam's last week, when he got suspended. The only way you could avoid that, as far as I could see, is if you let go. I hear the same questions each week and no one's got any answers."

Panthers captain Isaah Yeo added: “You just have to have an awareness, I guess, but it’s a split-second thing. Like you can feel like you’re in a really good position and then all of a sudden you’re in a bad one just like that, it’s a hard one.

“I feel like you know the bad ones (compared to) the 50-50 ones. The ones that really hurt someone and you can tell, they’re a lot different to these little ones that are going on at the moment.”

Cleary said he feels like referees are grouping all hip-drop tackles under the same umbrella. “I agree with Yeo, hip-drops are a bit like crusher tackles, when they were first introduced they look a lot different to what they look now,” he said.

“Somehow we blend them all in together as the same. I don’t know how you tell a player to let go deliberately, it’s just not in any players makeup and it’s just not an instinctive thing to do."

Cooper Cronk rejects Ivan Cleary statement

But according to Storm and Roosters champion Cronk, the onus is now on coaches to eradicate the tackling technique from the game. “The fact is there is now a punishment for a player getting a hip-drop wrong in a game,” he said on Fox Sports.

“Ivan Cleary said ‘what do you want the player to miss?’ Well no, you need a technical change.

“At the moment that’s the issue, they brought in (the crackdown) in Round 8 with sin-bins, suspensions. You’ve got to give coaches time to technically change that tackle.

“Because now they’re going to have to fall side on without trying to roll around the back and that’s going to take time to adjust and the only way you can do that is through practice. So with confusion and not understanding it, unfortunately this is going to be around for another couple of weeks until repetitions at training get done.”

Wests Tigers players, pictured here celebrating after their win over the Panthers.
Wests Tigers players celebrate after their win over the Panthers. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The win for the Tigers snapped their 12-game losing streak, with Luke Brooks and Api Koroisau helping the last-placed side upset the back-to-back premiers. Tim Sheens' men lost five in a row to end the 2022 season, before another seven on the trot to begin 2023.

"It's not just a win, it's a really good win," Sheens said. "There was no luck in it. We worked really, really hard.

"We had a good game plan we thought, we prepared for the rain, and the boys carried it out almost to the letter. That will show the guys that if they stick to what they're prepared to do, we've got a decent football team there."

with AAP

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