Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has reportedly had words with second rower Joe Tapine, after the 27-year-old's wife criticised him on social media last week.
Tapine's wife Kirstine took to her Instagram story following Canberra's loss to South Sydney last Thursday, criticising Stuart over his interchange rotations.
'JUST HORRIBLE': NRL fans gutted over Brett Morris injury
In the post, she suggested moves such as leaving Tapine on the bench for the majority of the 34-20 loss was 'killing us', also taking aim at Stuart's comments about referee decisions.
“You have an international player (Joe Tapine) warming your bench for 50 minutes… Your interchanges are killing us!!!” Kirsten wrote.
“Refs call count means jak (sic) when coaches are [rubbish emoji].”
Days later, it seems some other clubs have started monitoring the status of Tapine amid talk of discontent within the Raiders' locker room.
Channel Nine reported the likes of the Bulldogs, Panthers and Roosters could all be interested in luring Tapine away from Canberra.
Rugby league journalist Danny Weidler reported Tapine and Stuart had discussed the post at training on Monday.
“How do you reckon it was for Joey at training yesterday? I’m getting a bit of mail out of there that Ricky let him know what he thought,” Weidler said.
“And Ricky is up for the fight right now. I can’t say the exact quote but basically he’s in for a fight with his players.
"If they want to fight, I’m up for the fight and he used a few expletives in their as well.
“He knows they’ve got a talented group and he knows they’re not giving their best. Ricky demands the best from his players and he’s ready to challenge them.”
Raiders star's wife takes aim at Ricky Stuart
The Raiders dropped to 3-5 for the season after their loss to South Sydney on Thursday, a loss which prompted a furious Stuart tirade about the lopsided penalty count.
It was Canberra's fourth loss on the trot, and if Kirsten's post on Instagram is anything to go by, Stuart's recent bid to find form by shuffling players in and out of the side has ruffled a few feathers behind the scenes.
Stuart himself admitted to bungling interchanges against Parramatta a fortnight ago, and again seemed to make a series of puzzling decisions with his interchange against the Rabbitohs.
Tapine returned to the bench after being dropped the week before, but played just 33 minutes after coming on at the 25-minute mark before soon returning to the bench.
He played the final eight minutes as Canberra attempted to stage a comeback, but it was too little, too late.
Sia Soliola played just nine minutes for the entire match, while Ryan James was pulled after starting the game and playing just 23 minutes.
A lopsided 8-1 penalty count against Canberra and Jack Wighton being called back for two tries ultimately cost the Raiders.
The calls in the last 10 minutes proved decisive, as Souths kicked a late penalty goal to go 14 clear despite finishing the game with a man in the sin-bin.
This prompted Stuart to claim he would speak to referee boss Jared Maxwell over his team's heavy penalty count this season.
“I will but this has been happening a lot this year to us,” a clearly frustrated Stuart said.
“I look like the whinger, which I don’t really give a sh*t about being labelled the whinger.
“But when you get a game out there where it’s eight to one in penalties, I just think that probably needs a discussion.”
Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.