Legends question NRL’s ‘power to trainers’

Rugby league greats Brad Fittler and Peter Sterling have questioned the power of club trainers after the Panthers forced play to stop with the Eels in attacking territory.

Penrith last night edged out the Eels 8-6 in a semi-final thriller in Mackay.

Late in the game with less than five minutes remaining, the Eels were in a position to take advantage of a 12-man Penrith defensive line after Mitch Kenny was left on the turf behind the play.

Kenny's ankle appeared to get twisted while making a tackle on Eels big man Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

Under current rules, club trainers can request for the referee to stop play if there's a serious injury or safety concern.

Penrith's controversial interchange

Fittler argued there was no "safety issue" and questioned why there was a need for the game to stop.

The stoppage allowed Kenny to come from the field with Tevita Pangai Junior coming on as his replacement.

"This is Mitch Kenny when he got a twisted ankle and Pangai Junior came on for him," Fittler said during Nine's post-game coverage.

"I am still uncertain with the interchange that went on with Pangai Junior.

"The fact is, he was behind the play. It wasn't a safety issue, it was an ankle injury.

"You wonder why the game had to be stopped."

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Meanwhile, Sterling said the stoppage of play was a timely rest for the Panthers, who had defended a number of attacking sets in the lead-up.

"That is frustrating and I completely understand Brad's frustration with that. It is a kind of game where both teams are going to have complaints," Sterling replied.

"So many things happened and so many turning points. I'm sure Ivan Cleary would be uncomfortable with some of the things that happened out there

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"That was late in the game when you are on a roll, it is third tackle.

"The worst thing that can happen to you with the football in your hand is for the opposition to get a rest.

"His was foot was stood on. He did leave the field, it worked."

 Tevita Pangai Junior of the Panthers exchanges heated words with Will Smith and Isaiah Papali'i of the Eels during the NRL Semifinal match between the Penrith Panthers and the Parramatta Eels at BB Print Stadium on September 18, 2021 in Mackay, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Fittler then questioned whether the NRL has given too much power to trainers and coaches.

"When did the game give the power to trainers, who are totally controlled by coaches, to be able to stop a game," Fittler said. "That has got to be taken away."

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Sterling added: "There was also a stoppage tonight where a defending player was in the attacking line getting his knee strap."

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"You can't stop for those things.

"So there are frustrations in the game. I am frustrated with Blake Ferguson being down for a crusher tackle and when he gets a penalty, he bounces up to go on with it. You can't do things like that - you can't have it both ways."

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