Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan is unfazed by Ricky Stuart’s attack on his NRL club’s playing style, believing his Canberra counterpart is only using the Sharks as a way to get at Melbourne.
Stuart accused Cronulla of turning Canberra’s qualifying final against Canberra into a UFC battle on Wednesday, indicating the Sharks ignored referees’ instructions on offside and in the ruck.
But Flanagan believes Stuart only used the attack as a way to get inside the minds of referees ahead of his team’s preliminary final clash with the Storm on Saturday.
“For me it’s just a tactic of Sticky to put the referees on notice,” Flanagan told Sky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast on Thursday.
“Ricky doesn’t want to talk about Melbourne’s wrestle so he’s brought someone else up and just stated the point that he wants an open and care-free sort of game, not to be made about the wrestle on the ground.”
Melbourne have been at the centre of a wrestling-in-the-tackle controversy throughout this month’s finals campaign.
North Queensland reportedly wrote to the NRL after their first-week finals loss in Melbourne, which led to Ethan Lowe being ruled out for the season with a neck injury.
However the Storm have been adamant they’re doing nothing wrong and say they received assurances from the NRL there is no issue with their tackling technique.
A quicker and more open contest would play into Canberra’s hands, but Stuart has remain tight-lipped on the matter, refusing to talk of Melbourne’s style leading into this weekend’s preliminary final clash.
Regardless, Flanagan doesn’t believe his comments will have any impact.
“Melbourne aren’t going to change,” he said.
“They’re going to do what they’ve done for the past four or five years.
“It’s not against the rules. They’ll wrestle really well and have really good contact.”
Flanagan also confirmed that Sam Tagataese was extremely unlikely to beat a shoulder injury to be fit for Friday night’s preliminary final against the Cowboys.
“He’ll probably just miss out, but he’ll definitely be available if we’re good enough to win on the weekend, so that becomes a real good dilemma for me,” Flanagan said.
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