Wayne Bennett has declared he is a fan of referees enforcing the rules and has warned the game that it must not "blink" in the wake of outrage over the spate of penalties blown in the Cronulla Sharks v Melbourne Storm clash on Friday night.
The majority of Bennett's press conference ahead of Sunday night's showdown between the Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans was taken up discussing the refereeing of games in the opening rounds of the Telstra Premiership with the 33 penalties blown at Southern Cross Group Stadium the major talking point.
Bennett made the point that the rules of the game had not changed, rather the approach to policing them had.
It was a message reinforced recently by NRL CEO Todd Greenberg who said the referees were doing exactly what they had been asked to do with regard to cleaning up the play the ball and making sure players were onside.
"Everyone plays a different style of footy and some teams live on the edge and some teams want to break the rules, and some teams want to get away with as much as they possibly can," Bennett said.
"Other teams are happy to play within the rules but that is not for me and you to decide. That is for the officials to decide, and that is what is happening out there.
"They have made a decision obviously that they are going to clean the play the ball area up and they are going to clean up the 10 metres, and I'm a fan of it because it is going to give us a better game."
Match: Broncos v Titans
Round 4 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Bennett was asked, with reference to the penalty count in the clash at Cronulla, whether referees had gone overboard.
"No, I don't think so," he replied.
"What we are trying to do is give the game back to the fans. That's the way I see it.
"They wouldn't have given those penalties if they weren't deserved. Both teams are trying to get an edge.
"We are in this state at the moment because in the last three or four years there were a lot of things let go that shouldn’t have been let go."
Bennett said it was the coaches of teams that had allowed the situation to get "out of control".
"And we'll get it under control because we are not going to cop 33 penalties," he said.
"It is who blinks now. If the game blinks, the coaches will be back in control. If the game stays strong, we'll have to make sure our players are adhering to the rules.
"That's all [the referees] are doing. They are just enforcing the rules. They haven't made any new ones."
Bennett said he was happy with the clampdown on the areas he mentioned and the sin bin, so long as it was applied to everybody equally.
"But again, the players have got to understand that if this is what they want, you give them what they want and if you don’t, you're going to get yourself in a fair bit of trouble."
Bennett said he did not expect the game against the Titans to include 33 penalties.
"But if we are breaking the rules then I understand what the consequences will be and these players understand what the consequences will be," he said.
Bennett said the Broncos would be as named from one to 17 with star lock Josh McGuire fit to play despite finishing Saturday's training session early with a back complaint.