Souths ‘spicy rivalry with the Panthers is expected to come to a head ahead of the grand finale after Penrith CEO Brian Fletcher called the Bunnies’ official complaint against a coach “childish.”
The Daily Telegraph reported that the Rabbitohs emailed NRL football manager Graham Annesley on Monday expressing concerns over coach Hayden Knowles’ involvement in Penrith’s preliminary final victory over the Storm .
South Sydney’s complaint was based on “the interest of ensuring a well-contested Grand Final which is played both in the spirit of our game and in its rules”.
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The latest complaint comes after Wayne Bennett’s heated public feud with Ivan Cleary over the issue of illegal tactics to protect Panthers kicker Nathan Cleary ahead of the qualifying final.
Souths reported that Knowles entered the field 13 times during Penrith’s clash with the Storm.
NRL rules state that coaches are limited to entering the playing field three times in each half to convey messages to players when their team has the ball.
Apart from this, they can only access the pitch when a try is scored, during a video referee decision, to facilitate a rally, during a time-out called by the referee and during a abandonment.
Fletcher hit back at the Rabbitohs, calling the complaint “childish” and said they should do more to distract them from the days of the grand finale.
“These are childish stuff if that’s all the Souths have to worry about,” Fletcher said. News Corp.
“If they’re worried about it (Knowles’ activities) then hopefully that’s a distraction because they don’t get us under the skin.”
âThe Suds were complaining about blockers before our last game and that’s a standard thing. Each team in the NRL does the same (with blockers).
âIf the South wants to worry about the rules, that’s their problem. We have our eyes on the price and that’s all that matters to us.
âThey can try to put us in our shoes, but we have experienced people and our focus is on winning the Premiership.
“If they try to destabilize us, they might have to think of something else.”
Fletcher quickly defended Knowles and said Penrith’s coach would not break any rules on Sunday.
âHayden is one of the most experienced coaches in the game,â he said.
âHe was involved with State of Origin for NSW and did it for us.
âFootball coach Matt Cameron reminded Hayden of his homework so we don’t go over the bar. There will be no drama on our side.
âHe is well respected in the industry and we will not be involved in a slang game with South Sydney over any of our employees.
“Is it that bad? Like most people who watch a game, all I worry about is the players and the scoreboard.
âHayden knows his role. He’s been there for a long time and he’s doing what he can to help the team. How many times has Allan Langer (Broncos assistant) been on the field as a coach?
âWe respect the fact that the rules are rules and we will respect them for the grand final. “
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Annesley revealed that the Storm did not complain at their weekly press conference, but explained the number of reasons a coach is allowed to enter the pitch that can make it seem like he is more often on the field depending on the game.
âI haven’t received any official complaints from the Storm, but I am aware that there is a bit of scuttling around this issue,â said Annesley.
âSo I had one more slide if I had been asked that question and wanted to clarify the rules for blue sneakers.
âThis is straight out of the NRL operations manual. The duties of the blue coach are limited to exchanging players, providing water and conveying messages to individual team members.
âThis is the purpose of their role. As for how they are allowed to do it, they can do it when they facilitate the exchange of a player. They can therefore go out into the field to look for a player so that he can be traded.
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âThey are allowed to enter the field when a try has been scored. They are also allowed to enter the field pending a decision from the video referee regarding a try.
And they are allowed on the field during an injury timeout. And during a goal line, give up.
âThis is unrestricted access based on these specific circumstances.
“While it does not fall under any of those circumstances where they are allowed unlimited if they meet these conditions, point six says that three times per half they are allowed to forward messages to individual members of the team when their team is in possession.
âSo you will see coaches on the pitch quite regularly. “
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Annesley revealed that the NRL took action a few seasons ago to prevent coaches from spending too much time on the pitch for tactical purposes.
âWe cracked that down a lot a season or two ago and put these very specific restrictions on blue sneakers,â Annesley said.
“In particular, point six on limiting their tactical access to the field to three times per half.
âI think it has worked pretty well for us over the past two seasons.
âWe haven’t had the same level of public discontent with the coaches’ forays into the field.
âBut you will see coaches in the background in these first five scenarios and it can happen on any occasion that these particular circumstances present themselves.
âBut point six is ââwhere we have to be really careful to make sure they’re limited to those tactical forays on the ground.
“And they do it by means of field cards that they use and turn over whenever there is one of those opportunities.”
Either way, the explanation won’t do much to put out the blaze between the two clubs after a season of rivalry both on and off the pitch.