Coach Craig Bellamy has downplayed the impact Marika Koroibete’s sinbinning for punching had on Melbourne in their preliminary final loss to North Queensland.
With the Storm’s season in the balance midway through the second half, Koroibete lashed out at opposing winger Kyle Feldt as Cowboys playmaker Michael Morgan dashed over for a try.
In doing so, he became one of the few players exiled for 10 minutes since NRL boss Dave Smith implemented his “one punch and you are off” edict two seasons ago.
Morgan’s 54th-minute touchdown further advanced a 16-12 lead the Cowboys took into halftime at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
When he crossed again three minutes later, with a sheepish Koroibete pictured lurking in the Storm dressing room, the Cowboys led by 14.
It was an advantage they would never relinquish, going on to record a 32-12 win and booking a grand final showdown with Brisbane.
However, Bellamy said Koroibete’s actions didn’t sink the Storm’s title aspirations on their own.
“I didn’t think it was a punch. Having said that I’m not going to argue over whether it was a punch and whether he should have gone to the bin or not,” Bellamy said.
“At the end of the day, it happened. It wasn’t going to affect the result (and) I am not going to complain.”
Koroibete overcame a leg injury to take his place in the side but wasn’t his usual explosive self.
Bellamy said frustration might have played a role in the incident.
“Obviously it lacked a bit of discipline, I would say, but he was tapped on the head.
“Some players take a lot of offence to that and I think that is what happened with Marika.
“It is a lesson for him to learn but I don’t think it was going to make a whole heap of difference to the result of the game.”