The Melbourne Storm have once again drawn the ire of NRL fans after a controversial moment late in Sunday night’s grand final.
With the Panthers desperately trying to mount a late comeback and reducing the Storm’s lead from 26-0 to 26-12, they appeared to have all the momentum.
And they were looking to go back on the attack with 10 minutes remaining when they earned a penalty to march downfield.
They quickly kicked for touch and were keen to take the tap, but a controversial move from a Melbourne Storm trainer killed all their momentum.
The trainer rushed onto the field and asked referee Gerard Sutton to stop play so he could check on Storm forward Felise Kaufusi.
It’s not uncommon to see trainers ask the officials to stop play if a player is seriously injured or requires medical attention, but the trainer made the request before he even got to Kaufusi.
“A trainer’s holding up the game for no reason,” Phil Gould said in commentary for Channel Nine.
“This is wrong. The trainer has stopped the game from the sideline and run out to Kaufusi to give his team a break.
“This is just wrong. They stopped the game when Penrith were about to take the tap and (the trainer) ran out onto the field. They were nowhere near him when they stopped the game.”
Andrew Johns suggested there was “nothing wrong” with Kaufusi, while Ray Warren also questioned the contentious move.
“Gus is right. The trainer was only just leaving the sideline, he wouldn’t know whether Kaufusi had to be HIA’d or not,” Warren said.
“But they stopped the game because the trainer indicated it was a serious situation.”
The Panthers managed to score two more tries in the final 10 minutes, but ran out of time as they lost 26-20.
Fans were left fuming, with some labelling the Storm tactics “cheating”.
The Storm are a great team. Why do they keep cheating? That’s twice in a couple of weeks the trainers have deliberately tried to delay the game. #NRLGF
— Gavin Flanagan (@gavflano) October 25, 2020
That Storm trainer should be on report lol
— Eirenei Vaetoe (@Neikid) October 25, 2020
Another disgraceful display by the Storm - grubby tactics, trainer blatantly stopping play, coach making an arse of himself.
They take the #nrlgf and their fans will be happy, but it's hard to respect a team that finished with two players in the bin.
— dash aitch (@dash_aitch) October 25, 2020
Not to mention the trainer ... momentum killer. 😒
— DilanThampapillai (@TheDSingularity) October 25, 2020
Second incident involving Storm trainer
It’s not the first time a Melbourne Storm trainer has sparked controversy this year, with the club fined $10,000 when play was stopped in similar circumstances in the semi-finals.
With the Storm holding onto a narrow lead against Parramatta, a trainer once again called for play to be stopped so he could treat Suliasi Vunivalu for cramp.
NRL head of football Graham Annesley said it appeared to be a tactical ploy from the Storm which breached NRL rules.
Under the rules, a trainer who attempts to unnecessarily stop play for tactical reasons can be ordered from the playing area for the remainder of the match.
The incident occurred in backplay while the Eels were on a roll in attack, 30 metres out from the Storm's line.
Annesley said the trainer signalled to referee Ashley Klein to stop play before he had reached Vunivalu, without knowing the extent of his injury.
The winger then received treatment for what appeared to be a leg cramp, holding up play for several seconds under protest from Eels skipper Clint Gutherson.
“Rules are pretty clear. We need to seek an explanation from the Storm on that incident, which we will do,” Annesley said at the time.
“But on the face of it, it would appear to be a contravention of the rules.”
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