Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan believes referees have changed the game of rugby league through too many stoppages as a result of penalties, and called on NRL boss Todd Greenberg to step in.
"Todd has got to look at it," Flanagan said after the Sharks beat the Melbourne Storm 14-4 in a match that that included one try and 33 penalties.
"The referees are doing just what they're told to do. We've been talking about this for a month now. What you saw at the end of the game is because of the 19-14 penalty count. Players are getting frustrated … penalty after penalty."
Friday night's game ended with a lengthy melee involving nearly all 26 players. It started in the final seconds of the match and then continued well after the full-time hooter.
"But you can't blame the referees … it's not their fault," Flanagan said.
"They're doing what they've been told to do. Someone needs to go and ask Todd. It impacts on what the game looks like. There's that many penalties, that many stoppages - there's not a lot of ball in play. So it has changed our game definitely."
Cronulla co-captain Paul Gallen said the Sharks were trying to get their penalty rate down.
Match: Sharks v Storm
Round 4 -
Venue: Southern Cross Group Stadium
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"We talk about it during the week and we're just trying to work with them [refs]," Gallen said.
"We did really well last week giving away only six.
"They're picking everything up. There's no flow to the game at the moment. If anyone is even half-a-metre off-side they're penalising them."
Flanagan said the Sharks invited NRL referees to their training, almost on a weekly basis, to oversee team scrimmages.
"As players and as coach we're not going to whinge about it," he said.
"We've just got to work with it."
He then turned his attention to the game and how well the Sharks defended the Storm and rattled their opponents into making errors. Three times Storm players were pushed over the sideline.
"The Sharks won tonight, and to keep Melbourne Storm try-less is a fantastic effort," Flanagan said.
"They are a quality team, and defensively we were outstanding. They just kept turning up for each other."