Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has hit back at suggestions his plucky young Panthers have become kings of the NRL niggle.
On Tuesday night on NRL 360, News Corp journalist Paul Crawley accused the club’s players of “crossing the line” during a heated clash with Canberra in Round 5.
There was plenty of feeling in the game and it boiled over when the Panthers scored a try, and then young centre Stephen Crichton dragged an unwilling and unsuspecting Raiders player Joe Tapine into the celebrations.
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That bizarre action had players running in from all angles ready to brouhaha.
“There was a cockiness and an arrogance and against the Raiders on the weekend I thought it spilt over and it crossed the line of what’s acceptable,” Crawley said.
“There’s ways to celebrate a try and ways not to celebrate a try. This lacked class and respect.”
On Wednesday the coach was told about the comments.
“I’m just a bit confused as to what’s the problem,” Cleary said.
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“I don’t really know. Last week there was one incident from what I could see, and that was dealt with, which was fine.”
Cleary was pressed on whether he would feel the need to rein in his troops if they were getting ahead of themselves or being disrespectful on the field.
He is adamant he’s seen nothing from the team yet that would encourage him to intervene in their behaviour.
And he believes Penrith gets as good as they give on the field.
“Our team is young. I don’t think people see the niggle that comes from the opposition towards our team,” Cleary said.
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“We’ve been reasonably successful and what comes with that is we get a little bit of niggle toward our boys, especially because we are young.
“I guess at the moment our boys are combating that however they can.
“I’m always on the lookout to make sure we’re behaving the right way… I’m not too worried.
“You want that (players sticking up for themselves) because if you don’t then teams will keep niggling you. That’s just competitive combat, it’s not really anything more than that.
“I would back our team to be respectful as much as anyone in the game. They are young and in the heat of battle they might do things they might learn from, and that’s what it’s all about.”
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