Ugly new NRL finals fallout over Penrith trainer controversy

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Pictured here, Penrith trainer Pete Green helps Mitch Kenny off the field.
Penrith trainer Pete Green has faced backlash for the late-game NRL finals drama against Parramatta. Pic: Fox Sports

Veteran rugby league reporter Paul Kent says he "suspects" Penrith's trainer of being coached to deliberately stop play against the Eels, in an NRL finals controversy that has left fans fuming.

The NRL on Tuesday slapped the Panthers with a $25,000 fine and suspended trainer Pete Green from accessing the field of play and sideline for the remainder of the finals campaign.

Fellow Panthers trainer Hayden Knowles has also been issued with a warning for his part in the drama, with the Panthers given five days to appeal the decision.

Penrith will be allowed to use an alternate trainer in the absence of Green, who was also at the centre of a similar incident against Cronulla in round 14.

It comes after the NRL confirmed on Monday that the integrity unit was investigating whether Penrith were right to stop play for an injury to Mitch Kenny late in the 8-6 semi-final win over the Eels.

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The controversy surrounds a late-game incident where Parramatta were close to the Panthers' try line and desperately trying to fashion a match-winning moment.

However, play was stopped and the Eels' momentum was halted when Penrith trainer Green waved down the officials to have the game stopped so he could attend to Kenny.

According to the NRL Laws & Interpretations, trainers are only permitted to stop play if there are genuine and serious concerns for the player in question - with many believing this was not true in Penrith's case.

Speaking on Fox League’s NRL 360, Kent all but accused the Panthers of deliberately using a dodgy tactic to gain an advantage in the contest.

“Rather than run on and assess Kenny like he’s supposed to, and then tell the referee he needs the game stopped, he actually ran up the sideline … to the linesman where he’s saying, ‘Stop the game, stop the game’,” Kent said on Monday.

“He was 30 metres away (from Kenny).

“When you twist an ankle, you don’t stop the game.

“His priority was not to get to the injured player; it was to go up the sideline and tell the touch judge to stop the game.

“I don’t want to say it’s coached. I suspect it is, because every club does it. It happens all the time in the game.”

Seen here, the incident that landed Panthers trainer in hot water in the match against the Eels.
The Panthers could be fined and their trainer banned over the incident against the Eels. Pic: Getty

Fellow league reporter Phil Rothfield also weighed in on the drama by claiming the trainer had no right to stop the game in the manner he did.

“He (Green) hadn’t even diagnosed the injury.

“It’s another classic NRL incident with lack of common sense.

“The injured player was in absolutely no danger whatsoever. It was behind the play, Parramatta were on the attack.

“There was no need to stop the game.”

Annesley said the NRL would review the protocols around trainers stopping play for injuries at the end of the season, but refused to comment on the Penrith incident.

"Whether we will need to do more is something we will do at the end of the season," Annesley said.

"It's one of the really difficult ones in our game.

"Because obviously player safety and player welfare has to be paramount importance.

"But we have to make sure our rules can't be used for tactical advantage."

Concerns teams making mockery of rules

In perhaps the most savage assessment of the controversy, commentator and former coach Phil Gould said the NRL had no one to blame but itself for the fiasco.

“If you keep making stupid, pedantic rulings and be influenced by social media in trying to shape your game, then you‘re going to end up with this,” Gould told Channel Nine's 100% Footy.

“And the top coaches and the top players and the referees will make a mockery of you the closer you get to the big games. And there were a number of instances on the weekend where players made a mockery of the rules. And there are a number of times where the rules have come back against us....

“Pete Green runs on the field, ‘Stop, stop, stop! He’s got to stop’. Why? ‘Well he’s got a bindi in his shoe.’

“This is where we get to if we listen to the fans and if people who don’t know how to implement the rules implement them. Then we allow the referees to run their own race."

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