Angry NRL powerless to punish Smith

 

The NRL will reprimand premiership-winning Storm captain Cameron Smith for accusing referee Gerard Sutton of attempting to manufacture an "exciting finish" in the NRL grand final.

The Daily Telegraph has been told NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo is planning to vent his disappointment at the comments by contacting Smith on Tuesday.

Smith and Sutton had an on-field exchange in the 71st minute - with Melbourne ahead 26-12 - after Storm player Jarome Hughes was sin-binned for impeding Nelson Asofa-Solomona on a kick-chase.

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Cameron Smith of the Storm celebrates after scoring a try during the 2020 NRL grand final.
Cameron Smith of the Storm celebrates after scoring a try during the 2020 NRL grand final.


Channel 9 audio caught Smith telling Sutton: "The last three or four penalties they have got, (they're) little, very picky stuff and we have got nothing, mate.

"I get it, everyone wants an exciting finish. But we are just the same as them. Stop trying to pick little things out of our game to make an exciting finish."

NRL management privately claim Smith's comments were an "inappropriate choice of words when engaging with match officials".

Cameron Smith celebrates grand final victory with Storm teammates.
Cameron Smith celebrates grand final victory with Storm teammates.


The NRL match review committee met Monday morning and elected against charging Smith with contrary conduct under the game's code of conduct.

And Sutton did not lodge a formal complaint with the NRL.

While Abdo is powerless to overrule the match review committee, well-placed sources indicate the NRL CEO is annoyed enough to rebuke Smith.


Smith cannot, if cleared by the match review committee, then be fined but he can be sanctioned informally by Abdo, who can only govern on-field matters which include vilification, abuse or harassment.

Had Smith repeated the comments post game, he would likely have been fined up to $20,000 by the NRL.

Victory is sweet. Melbourne Storm celebrate their premiership. Picture: Brett Costello
Victory is sweet. Melbourne Storm celebrate their premiership. Picture: Brett Costello


Melbourne was reduced to 11 players near full-time with Storm CEO Dave Donaghy telling radio station SEN: "(If we played for a couple more minutes), I think Gerard Sutton would've found a couple of ways to send more of our players off."

Donaghy - who could argue his comments were lighthearted more than vitriolic - then pointed out that Hughes and Brandon Smith deserved to be sin-binned.

The NRL accepts captains can clarify on-field decisions but not - as one official said - "create pressure" on referees.

There were though calls of inconsistency after Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was fined $20,000 - later reduced to $10,000 - for claiming Canberra was "managed" back in a match during August.

It led to ARLC chairman Peter V'landys describing Cleary's comment as "deplorable."

Abdo had the power to fine Cleary as the coach's comments were made at an after-game press conference.

Asked about the perceived disparity, Panthers Group CEO Brian Fetcher would not comment. Smith continues to celebrate Melbourne's grand final win at the club's home base on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.


Originally published as Angry NRL powerless to punish Smith


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