Penrith fire back at Souths over 'childish' pre-grand final act

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
South Sydney's complaint to the NRL over the conduct of Penrith trainer Hayden Knowles was met with a blunt rebuke from Panthers brass. Pictures: getty Images
South Sydney's complaint to the NRL over the conduct of Penrith trainer Hayden Knowles was met with a blunt rebuke from Panthers brass. Pictures: getty Images

The running war of words between Penrith and South Sydney has taken yet another turn with the NRL grand final just days away.

Weeks after head coaches Ivan Cleary and Wayne Bennett butted heads over blocking tactics, the Rabbitohs have reportedly complained to the NRL about Panthers trainer Hayden Knowles' conduct during their preliminary final win over Melbourne.

CRUCIAL: Major change to NRL grand final after QLD Covid outbreak worsens

'MIND-BOGGLING': Cameron Smith rips 'dumb' former teammates

According to the Daily Telegraph's Peter Badel, the Rabbitohs were unhappy with the amount of times Knowles ventured onto the ground - a complaint which was labelled 'childish' by Panthers CEO Brian Fletcher.

South Sydney reportedly complained to the NRL in the 'interests of ensuring a well fought grand final that is played in both the spirit of our game and within its rules'.

Fletcher accused the Rabbitohs of 'whingeing' in response, suggesting the Rabbitohs ought to have more to worry about that what one trainer does.

Knowles has already come under scrutiny this finals however, with the NRL officially warning the Penrith trainer after his controversial stoppage of play during the Panther's semi-final win over Parramatta.

Despite this, Fletcher stood by his man and dismissed the Rabbitohs complaint as an attempt at mind games leading up to the grand final.

“It is childish stuff if that’s all Souths have got to worry about,” Fletcher said.

“If they are worried about that (Knowles’ activities), then hopefully it’s a distraction, because they won’t get under our skin.

“Souths were whinging about the blockers before our last game and that is a standard thing. Every team in the NRL does the same thing (with blockers).

“If Souths want to worry about the rules, that’s their problem. We have our eyes on the prize and that’s all we care about.

“They can try and get under our skin but we have experienced people and we are focused on winning the premiership."

NRL forced to address ongoing trainer stoush ahead of grand final

NRL head of football Graham Annesley wasn't able to escape the issue in his weekly press conference, admitting the Storm had no issue with Knowles' conduct in Penrith's narrow preliminary final win.

“I’m aware there is a little bit of scuttlebutt around this issue,” Annesley said.

“This is straight out of the NRL operations manual. The blue trainer duties are limited to the interchange of players, the provision of water and carrying messages to individual team members.

“That is the purpose of their role. In terms of how they are allowed to do that they can do that when facilitating an interchange of a player. So they can go onto the field to get a player so he can be interchanged."

Importantly, Annesley promised proper conversion procedures would be followed for the grand final, after the league escaped what loomed as a potentially embarrassing gaffe.

The Panthers earned their place in the 2021 NRL grand final after a thrilling preliminary final win over the Melbourne Storm. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
The Panthers earned their place in the 2021 NRL grand final after a thrilling preliminary final win over the Melbourne Storm. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Cleary took a conversion from well infield of where he should have after Penrith's second try against Melbourne on Saturday.

Annesley estimated the kick position was seven metres out of place, with head office lucky the Panthers halfback missed the shot.

The onus for the error has been put squarely on officials, with Annesley confirming it was on both referee Gerard Sutton and the touch judge to line up the kick.

Under the NRL's official processes, the touch judge is meant to stand where the try is scored, before the referee walks backwards to line up where the shot is taken.

But Annesley admitted that process had fallen by the wayside, and told referees it had to be followed correctly in Sunday's decider between South Sydney and Penrith and beyond.

"That process failed and it shouldn't have failed. And it won't fail again in the grand final," Annesley said.

"I have made it absolutely clear that the process needs to be reinforced to the referees."

With AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting