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Abdo calls on coaches to help cool rising tensions over refs

“We take the performance of ourselves as administrators seriously. We are always looking to improve and to protect the integrity of the competition for fans. There will always be decisions made on the field that were line ball that we can debate. I genuinely believe our match officials are doing everything they can to get decisions right.

“I understand coaches are always going to push the boundaries and try to take the heat off their team. That’s been the case for a while. I think it’s useful for us to be able to talk about, and build up, the excitement to games.

‘I think we’ve got to be better than that. Sport is played by humans, and humans make mistakes.’

Andrew Abdo

“Rivalries are good for rugby league, they’re what excite our fans and its part of our tribalism, but it’s important we remain professional and don’t cross the line. As long as they’re not questioning the integrity of officials and adhering to the code of conduct, then there’s no issue with that.”

Cleary, who is trying to nurse a bung shoulder through the finals series which will require off-season surgery, was quick to talk up his side’s chances of recovering from the boilover in Townsville, pitting them in a sudden death final in Mackay next Saturday.

The Panthers breathed a huge sigh of relief when NSW back-rowers Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin escaped match review charges for crusher tackles which were penalised against South Sydney. Viliame Kikau will accept a $2150 fine for dangerous contact on Jaydn Su’A.

“We have full belief in each other as a group and it’s probably time to revisit that, fine tune a couple of things, keep working hard at it and we’ve just got to leave no stone unturned, no regrets and work hard,” Cleary said. “That’s the only way we are going to do it.

Nathan Cleary launches a clearing kick against South Sydney.

Nathan Cleary launches a clearing kick against South Sydney.Credit:Getty

“We have to pick ourselves up, we’re still filled with belief and we’ll just do it the hard way now.”

Their road to the grand final will have to be through minor premiers Melbourne, who will be rested for a potential preliminary final blockbuster.

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Fullback Dylan Edwards and prop Moses Leota are favoured to return in week two of the finals, giving Ivan Cleary the luxury of moving Stephen Crichton into the outside backs.

“What we saw on the weekend is that this premiership is wide open and fans know that,” Abdo said. “The ratings for the first three games were all up significantly on prior years. It is an exciting time of the season and there are some great matches coming up.”

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