NRL Grand Final; Panther captain Isaah Yeo scoffs at illegal tactic claims

Penrith co-captain Isaah Yeo says claims his side uses illegal blockers to protect the kickers is “an easy write-up” that’s been recycled from two years ago and Broncos coach Kevin Walters hasn’t got any concerns about the tactic.

Former Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett accused the Panthers of a similar tactic ahead of the finals series two years ago which sparked a mini war of words between the clubs.

The issue has resurfaced this week after some clips from Penrith’s preliminary final win over the Storm showed forwards standing in the ruck and moving to the side to block markers from getting to Nathan Cleary as he kicked the ball.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said he “didn’t know” where that had come from considering they haven’t changed what they’ve been doing all year, with referees not finding anything wrong with the tactic.

“I think maybe everyone just reads their notes from the previous year and what they spoke about during that week,” he said at Thursday’s grand final press conference in front of fans in Circular Quay.

It’s not uncommon for stories to come out ahead of a big game trying to highlight anything controversial, with several stories this week pointing to Penrith’s incredible record under Adam Gee who will referee his first NRL Grand Final this weekend.

The Panthers have lost just one game under Gee in five seasons, but their record under most referees has been exceptional during that period.

It’s why Yeo isn’t concerned about allegations of blockers days out from the biggest game of the year.

“If they were paying penalties then you’d probably say it’s not (within the rules),” the star lock said.

“It’s an easy write-up. I feel like the media try to find something each year, and that’s what it is this year. It was the same as last year. It doesn’t change our focus. We’re just going out there on Sunday to play our best game.”

Walters was also quizzed on the ploy and confirmed all teams try to find ways to protect their kickers, with the onus on the officials to blow the whistle if something’s wrong.

“I’m happy with it. I’m not concerned with it,” he said.

“Everyone tries to protect their kickers and it’s a big part of the game now. We don’t have a problem with what they’re doing.

“Let’s let the referees police that stuff and we’ll play footy. I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure on the referees in different areas of the game. They’re aware of it, we’re aware of it and Penrith’s certainly aware of it. That’s all we can do.”

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