Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has unleashed on Johnathan Thurston over comments the Cowboys playmaker made in the wake of the bash and barge treatment he received at the hands of the Knights in Round 2.
Thurston claimed that it was "open slather" on NRL playmakers after he bore the brunt of continuous roughhousing by Newcastle enforcers Beau Scott and Jeremy Smith in the Cowboys' 16-14 loss to the Knights last weekend.
Thurston was left sporting a swollen left eye after the match with Scott escaping suspension by taking an early guilty plea for a grade one dangerous contact charge.
“I suppose it's game on now. You can do that and get away with it,” Thurston said earlier in the week.
“I think a lot of teams will bring that into their game plans now and I think it’s open slather.”
Never one to shy away from voicing his opinion, Bennett responded by declaring that the "drama queens" are "out of the cage" in the wake of Thurston's comments.
“It’s not open slather, that’s ridiculous,” Bennett said.
“What’s happened this week is all the drama queens have got out of the cage again.
“It’s been going on for a long time in our game. Elite players always get more attention than everyone else.
“Johnathan didn’t get any more special treatment last week than he got in last year’s Origin series when there was a war between him and Beau Scott."
Bennett coached Scott for four seasons with both the Dragons and the Knights and leapt to the defence of his former player.
“I love Beau Scott, I make no apologies for him,” he said.
“He plays on the edge and that’s what you want from your players. If he’s done something wrong it’s up to the NRL to charge him.
"I wouldn’t change Beau Scott for a second."
The 65-year-old has been coaching first grade since his days at the Raiders in 1987 and in that time he has mentored a plethora of playmakers including Allan Langer, Wally Lewis, Kevin Walters, Darren Lockyer, Jamie Soward and Jarrod Mullen.
He went on to say that those tactics have been around for decades.
“It was happening in the 1960s and ‘70s," he said.
“Guys are getting tackled later and defenders are allowed to get away with it.
“Has it always been in the game? Yes it has.
“If you are not a brave halfback today, you can’t play, and there is no one braver than Johnathan Thurston and that’s the price you pay."
Former Broncos skipper Corey Parker stated on Monday that Thurston should expect the same treatment against his side on Friday night – as long as it was within the rules.
"A halfback in any side, in particular [Thurston], is going to cop plenty of attention but what I don't condone – and we won't be doing it – is if you are outside of the rules of the game," Parker said.
"If you're a halfback in any side generally you're going to touch the ball more times than anyone else and in particular someone with the presence of 'JT' is going to demand some defenders.
"We'll be no different but there will be none of us going outside of the rules of the game."