NRL News | Column by Mark Levy

Isn’t it refreshing to hear the coaches and players speak out?

For too long, the NRL has been plagued by boring clichés, politically correct statements and a carefully constructed rotation in times of crisis.

You can imagine the excitement among reporters and commentators when Wayne Bennett and Ivan Cleary touched down and engaged in a war of words leading up to Saturday night’s qualifying final between Penrith and South Sydney in Townsville.

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Take the popcorn and enjoy.

Penrith’s coach kicked off by accusing the South Sydney Rabbitohs of deliberately targeting Nathan Cleary and urged NRL game officials to go after anyone who hits the half-back late or high.

Bennett wasn’t going to sit down and let the allegation go, and the 71-year-old bristled at Ivan in a rant that would have made any lawyer proud.

The Rabbitohs coach pointed out illegal block games and suggested the Panthers practice them in training to protect their number seven.

Surprise surprise, Bennett had the last word in Townsville.

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The Bunnies are now one win away from the biggest game of the season as the Panthers must beat Parramatta to keep their 2021 campaign alive.

You’d think Ivan Cleary would think twice before engaging in a war of words with the Supercoach, but he doubled down after the game. The verbal slang game continued as the Panthers coach suggested Bennett had manipulated match officials and called on the NRL to impose a fine on those who tried to publicly influence referees before games . The veteran mentor denied the claim, pointing to Ivan’s history with the referees and the fact that he started the public debate.

“I wasn’t going to sit idly by and defend my players. He came out of the mouth. So put him in his right perspective,” Bennett said. “If he’s critical, he’s criticizing himself.”

If it was a couple of kids, you’d send them to their bedroom, but watching two grown men swap beards during a soccer game is priceless.

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Coaches trying to manipulate referees is something that has been going on for decades.

Bob Fulton has become a genius, and Warren Ryan was not afraid to highlight areas of the game that required the attention of match officials. It has also become a regular part of the narrative from the perspective of State of Origin. How many times have you read a story suggesting that the NSW or Queensland coach wants a meeting with the NRL boss of umpires?

Why has it suddenly become such a problem?

I was surprised to read some comments yesterday from NRL boss Andrew Abdo in The Sydney Morning Herald in which the CEO urged the game as a whole to distract from match officials. When asked if there was not too much emphasis on officials, Mr Abdo replied, “I agree. I think we have to be better than that. The sport is played by humans and humans make mistakes. you. “

I know umpires are an easy target, but yelling things like ‘get them involved’ and ‘they been doing it all day’ has always been a part of the game.

I’m sick of people trying to water down the rugby league when we should be encouraging coaches, players and match officials to speak up.

Obviously there is a line for determining what is offensive and what is libelous, so as long as you avoid attacking someone’s character, where is the problem?

Conflict, controversy and criticism are what people love in professional sport. It gives us something to talk about at work and within our group of friends; can you imagine the alternative?

The NRL shouldn’t be fining coaches and players for expressing their opinion, the league should encourage it. We want more. Who is with me?

Let me know what you think by emailing the Wide World of Sports radio show by clicking on this link:

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