The Panthers have laughed off an official complaint from grand final rivals South Sydney about the amount of time one of their trainers spends on the field, arguing the mind games won’t derail their quest for premiership glory.
Penrith chief executive Brian Fletcher said the issue wouldn’t unsettle the title favourites before the decider, only three weeks after rival coaches Ivan Cleary and Wayne Bennett engaged in a war of words before and after their first finals clash.
On that occasion, Cleary accused the Rabbitohs of using illegal tactics on son Nathan before Bennett blasted the Panthers’ use of blockers to protect the superstar No.7 as he launched aerial raids on South Sydney’s back three.
And after News Corp revealed the Rabbitohs sent an email to NRL head of football Graham Annesley alleging Penrith’s blue shirt trainer Hayden Knowles entered the field of play 13 times during the Panthers’ gripping preliminary final win over Melbourne, Fletcher was quick to stress the issue wouldn’t disrupt Ivan Cleary’s side.
“We’re talking about a bloke in a blue shirt, and we’re worried about winning the prize, not a bloke who is running on the field,” Fletcher said. “We’ve got not interest in it at all. Why is it such a fuss?
“We’ve got our eyes on the big prize and we’ve got to do everything we can to give it our best shot.
“[General manager] Matt Cameron has spoken to [Knowles] to make sure he doesn’t break the rules, but he’s an experienced trainer who has done State of Origin. How can you tell what effect he has by being on there? How many times has [Brisbane trainer] Allan Langer been on the field? It’s not going to bother us.”
Trainers are allowed to enter the field three times a half when their team has the ball to deliver messages to players. The NRL introduced a system last year whereby the trainer needed to hand a card to an interchange official signalling when they were entering the field for tactical purposes.