Bennett urges rep punishment rethink
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has asked for a rethink on the punishment handed out in representative fixtures, seeking a solution that doesn't unnecessarily punish NRL clubs.
Four players are this week missing from their respective NRL teams as a result of suspensions handed down for indiscretions in representative games, Greg Bird's eight-week suspension for a lifting tackle having dramatic implications for the Gold Coast Titans.
Along with Bird, Sam Thaiday (Broncos), Josh Reynolds (Bulldogs) and Felise Kaufusi (Storm) will each serve a week's suspension this weekend and with the representative season about to hit full stride, Bennett is concerned other clubs will suffer for the sins of their rep stars.
Bird won't be seen in a Titans jersey again until Round 19 and Bennett believes there must be a way to punish foul play in the representative arena without negatively impacting club teams.
"We've lost Sam Thaiday playing for Australia and the club takes all the risk in this business. I sometimes think there's got to be a better way," Bennett said.
"I see Greg Bird leaving the judiciary last night and [Titans coach] Neil Henry is there representing him. Neil Henry had nothing to do with that game, this is his club coach and we're left with all the responsibility again.
"To me lots of times it's unfair, maybe there's no fairer way, I don't know.
"The clubs take all the risk, we pay all the money, we contract the players, we're the ones that look after them 24/7 and they go away in the rep programs and at the end of the day we pay the price.
"The club takes all the risk, the fans buy their season tickets and a guy's out for eight weeks so everyone's a loser except the game.
"The rep stuff, if nothing changes for them they go and pick another player and don't even have to appear at the judiciary."
The loss of Thaiday is one of only two absentees from the Broncos roster this Friday with Mitchell Dodds looking at more than a month on the sidelines with a knee injury that was initially feared to be a season-ending ACL injury.
It's a health assessment that Panthers opposite Ivan Cleary could only dream of ahead of their clash on Friday night with the Broncos also welcoming Darius Boyd back to the fold, with the star fullback recovering from his Achilles tendon injury suffered in the pre-season.
"If Sam hadn't got suspended and with the exception of Mitchell Dodds we're probably at full strength," Bennett said.
"We haven't been all season, we've used five fullbacks at some stages so we've been through our own moments with injuries to players in key positions.
"They're obviously having some injury problems with some key players at the moment but that doesn't diminish what they can do."