26 Sep 2008

Stuart blames NRL for Smith's demise

5:43 pm on 26 September 2008

Cronulla's coach Ricky Stuart claims the NRL's inaction over the grapple tackle is to blame for the drama-charged build-up to tonight's preliminary final against Melbourne.

The build-up to the grand final qualifier bordered on the farcical yesterday as Storm and Sharks officials instigated a series of tit-for-tat media cancellations before the NRL was forced to step in, and both teams grudgingly fronted.

The cause of the angst is the two-match ban handed to Melbourne's skipper Cameron Smith for a grapple tackle, with the Storm livid at Stuart's comments before the hearing.

Later Stuart took aim at the NRL saying it could have stopped the dangerous head-high tackles three years ago, when the Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett talked about the issue quite strongly in a coaches' conference.

He says if that had happened Smith would be playing tonight - but the Storm say the Sharks have committed their share of grapple tackles this season.