Shane Flanagan.
Shane Flanagan.

Bennett comes to the rescue of referees

WAYNE Bennett says all NRL coaches have to get the game back under control following the governing body's penalty crackdown.

The focus on cleaning up the game came in for widespread criticism from fans and commentators on Friday night when referees blew 33 penalties in Cronulla's win over Melbourne and Storm skipper Cameron Smith and Sharks rival Luke Lewis were sin-binned.

While the clampdown has critics fuming, including NRL Immortal Andrew Johns, Bennett said the coaches have no one to blame but themselves if things don't change.

Bennett said he welcomes the crackdown and it's up to the coaches to fix the number of mistakes happening in the game.


Cameron Smith is sin binned but wasn't keen to leave the field.
Cameron Smith is sin binned but wasn't keen to leave the field.

"The coaches in the end will get it under control," he said.

"We got it out of control, we'll get it under control because we're not going to cop 33 penalties.

"All we're trying to do is give the game back to the fans. That's the way I see it. They wouldn't give those penalties if they weren't deserved.

"We're in this state at the moment because for the last three or four years, there's been a lot of things let go that shouldn't have been let go."

Bennett also encouraged the NRL to remain strong on their stance, despite the growing backlash.

He said if the game took a backwards step now, all coaches would just take advantage of that.

Cronulla's Luke Lewis was also sin-binned. Picture: Brett Costello
Cronulla's Luke Lewis was also sin-binned. Picture: Brett Costello

"If the game blinks, the coaches will be back in control," he said.

"If the game stays strong, we have to make sure our players are adhering to the rules. They're just enforcing the rules, they haven't made any new ones.

"Players have to understand this is what they want and give them want they want. If you don't give them what they want, you'll get yourself into a fair bit of trouble."

Bennett said he did not expect to see a similar penalty count in Sunday's derby showdown with the Titans at Suncorp Stadium but would be understanding if there was.

The Broncos trained strongly on Saturday, with Josh McGuire the only concern.

The Brisbane forward walked off the field about half an hour into the session, reportedly complaining of tightness in his hamstring and back.

However, Bennett was confident McGuire will be fit to play.