Flanagan warns Cooper his reputation's at stake
Shane Flanagan has warned North Queensland Cowboys forward Gavin Cooper risked damaging his credibility by repeating accusations the Cronulla Sharks had targeted Matt Scott’s reconstructed knee in last Friday’s opening round.
Cooper sparked the first on-field spat of the season when he made the allegation without any prompting from reporters at a media session in Townsville on Monday and repeated it again on Fox Sports NRL 360 program the following night.
A furious Flanagan fired back at Cronulla's captain's run before Thursday night's clash with St George Illawarra Dragons, declaring: “As a club, we are not happy about it."
Flanagan took personal offence at the claims and had reviewed each tackle on Scott, who making his comeback from a ruptured ACL in round one of last season’s Telstra Premiership, and could not find anything untoward.
The 2016 premiership-winning coach admitted his players had been instructed to limit the amount of post-contact metres the Cowboys forwards made in Townsville but said all teams did the same and there was nothing illegal in the tactics.
Match: Sharks vs Dragons
Venue: Southern Cross Group Stadium
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The NRL match review committee looks at all tackles in which a player's leg is twisted or pulled but did not find any incidents to warrant concern involving Sharks players.
"There has been a lot of media and a lot of fuss about something that has got no truth to it and there is no evidence,” Flanagan said.
"It is just ridiculous and [Cooper’s] profile in the game … people are going to start to question, if he keeps trotting things out like that."
Flanagan explained that from a football perspective the Sharks had a player tackle the legs of Scott but he insisted they did not target his knee and said he didn’t even know which one the Test prop had surgery on.
"The Cowboys last year were No.1 for post-contact metres, if you don’t get into the legs of a forward carrying the football you are going to be standing under the goal posts," Flanagan said.
"Go and look at Melbourne, if a Melbourne player doesn’t get into the legs of an opposition player Craig [Bellamy] will be down there pulling them off the sideline. It is just the way he coaches and the way every coach coaches. You have got to get into the legs of the players.
"We did it under the rules, there was nothing there sinister. Matt Scott got up every time and played the ball, he never complained once so it is really surprising that it has come out not once, but twice.
“We have got to get into him and we have got to stop him, he is a quality player, he is a Test front-rower, but I had a look at every one of those tackles and there is definitely nothing there."
Flanagan also said he would not ask players to illegally target an opponent’s injury and they would not agree to do so.
"A lot of them are mates, we have got Australian players in our squad who room with Matt Scott," he said. "Yes, you have got to go out there and hurt the opposition within the rules, that has been going on since rugby league was invented, but from a game perspective we have tidied it up.
"We don’t want any foul play, wrestling tactics and all of that stuff. That was knocked on the head three or four years ago so it is really strange."
Flanagan found an unlikely ally in St George Illawarra Dragons coach Paul McGregor, who said he had no concerns about the Sharks employing illegal tactics in Thursday night’s local derby at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
McGregor reviewed the Sharks-Cowboys match and did not see anything untoward.
"I don’t want to get too involved in a game that doesn’t concern us, but your marker is always going to give you inside pressure and I didn’t see too much more than what normally gets dealt each week from Cronulla," McGregor said.