NRL 'wetting the bed' as 'weak-gutted dog' sledge sparks debate

As Corey Horsburgh and Royce Hunt continue to trade insults, Paul Kent has questioned at what point the NRL should step in.

Royce Hunt and Corey Horsburgh.
The NRL feud between Royce Hunt and Corey Horsburgh has led Paul Kent to wonder whether or not the NRL should step in. Pictures: Getty Images

The increasingly ugly war of words between Canberra's Corey Horsburgh and Cronulla Sharks prop Royce Hunt has prompted an extraordinary debate about whether the NRL should intervene. Hunt was sin-binned during the Sharks' 24-20 loss to the Raiders last weekend for striking Horsburgh.

Speaking after the match, Hunt referenced Raiders coach Ricky Stuart's incendiary comments about Penrith's Jaeman Salmon from last season. Discussing the incident with Horsburgh after the match, Hunt said "as Ricky Stuart would say, he’s a weak-gutted dog".

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Stuart copped heavy criticism for directing the same insult at Salmon, albeit under significantly more charged circumstances after a spiteful clash between the Raiders and Panthers. He was subsequently handed a one-week ban and fined $25,000 by the NRL.

Horsburgh added further fuel to the fire when he posted an edited image of himself holding an infant which had Hunt's face imposed on top. “Really happy for my little boy watching Daddy score 2 tries,” Horsburgh captioned the post.

While the feud has been more on the side of amusing than truly spiteful, unlike Stuart's run-in with Salmon last year, NRL journalist Paul Kent still raised the question of whether or not either player should face a potential sanction from the league amid the war of words.

“The interesting thing to me about this, I think he was half joking when he said it, half having a crack at Horsburgh,” Kent said on NRL 360. “But when Ricky Stuart said it, a coach get the first ever suspension, a suspension in what Ricky said.”

However fellow NRL writer Michael Carayannis was quick to dismiss the suggestion, saying there was absolutely no comparison between the genuinely ugly situation between Stuart and Salmon and what was happening between Hunt and Horsburgh. Labelling the initial comment from Hart a 'throwaway line', Carayannis then asked if Kent was expecting the league to step in.

“No I’m not, I don’t think he should be (suspended), and I can see he had half a smile, but if you read it which is all the NRL is about, their reputation, their standing,” Kent replied. “If you read that, how does that right there read any different to what Ricky said? I don’t think he should be suspended, but they will be wetting the bed now in there at the NRL, they’ll be thinking how do we handle this.”

NRL debate erupts amid Corey Horsburgh, Royce Hunt feud

Carayannis felt it was clear that perhaps despite some frustration between Horsburgh and Hunt, it was simply not in the same category as Stuart's memorable blow-up. “I disagree, that was something that was dredged up from 10 to 15 years prior, this was something that happened on the weekend between two front rowers,” Carayannis said.

"Not a kid that Jaeman Salmon was… it’s got to be the context and time frame and using your position, as Ricky Stuart did as an NRL coach, to air your dirty laundry. It was two front rowers going at it in a game that happened three days ago, not something that has been building for 15 years… it doesn’t look like a joke, it looks like a get square in the last round.”

Canberra Raiders players celebrate a try being scored.
Canberra got their first win of the NRL season with a narrow victory over Cronulla. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

The Cronulla prop has already taken note of the Sharks' final-round clash with Canberra and Horsburgh later this year, and has made no secret of the fact he will keep it in the back of his mind. "We'll see if he fronts up," Hunt said.

"I have never seen a front-rower hide behind a halfback. You can't just hold me in and push me over and not expect anything. I was a bit upset about that. That was a pretty low act. It is what it is, it's rugby league. We get on with it and bash him next game."

Hunt admitted the jumper-punch proved crucial as Horsburgh scored immediately after the altercation and Canberra crossed again while he was off the field in the 24-20 win. Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon said after the match both Horsburgh and Hunt were in the wrong as the Shark was unfairly held back but shouldn't have retaliated.

With AAP

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