Grand Final, Penrith Panthers vs South Sydney Rabbitohs, Ivan Cleary, Wayne Bennett

Grand Final, Penrith Panthers vs South Sydney Rabbitohs, Ivan Cleary, Wayne Bennett

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has received a brutal reality check from a host of NRL pundits over his lack of interaction with the media ahead of the grand final.

Cleary turned down most of the interview requests this week after being burned to the media by Wayne Bennett when the two clubs met in week one of the final.

The rivalry between Cleary and Bennett took an intriguing turn when the Panthers coach leaked screenshots showing the Rabbitohs targeting his son and Penrith halfback, Nathan, in earlier games this season.

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Bennett came out and knocked down Cleary before Souths slammed the Mountain Men and doubled up the veteran.

Since then, Cleary has remained in the background with assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo being forced to take on most of the media duties this week.

Speaking on Triple M, Broncos great Gorden Tallis was critical of Cleary’s handling of the situation.

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“We don’t pay as much as TV, but we’re still partners,” Tallis told the Sunday Sin Bin.

“You don’t talk to me, in the States you can interview Michael Jordan two hours before he plays.

“That’s why all our players wear NBA gear.

“All the players are walking down the street with their hats backwards with a LeBron James singlet or Kobe Bryant, because you see those guys selling their brand every week.

“It’s not the coach’s fault and it’s not the player’s fault. It’s the game’s fault. We have to be stronger.

“That’s something we need to tackle and make sure everyone is available to sell the game.”

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Fox League’s James Hooper claimed Cleary “did himself a disservice” with how he behaved this week.

“I understand it got pretty heated between him and Wayne a month ago and he’s obviously learned some lessons from that, but this is the biggest game of the year,” Hooper said.

“He punched Triple M back today for a pre-match interview. I think he did them all when asked over the course of this season.

“Given the size of the game and what’s at stake, it’s not about the journalists, it’s about talking to the fans. Penrith fans have a right to hear from their coach but I think he has done himself a disservice. I think it’s negative that he stayed in the background.”

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Paul Kent of the Daily Telegraph said the NRL should step in and force head coaches to go to the media.

“The NRL must solve that, there must be provisions. This game is supported by broadcasters. 80 percent of the revenue comes from broadcasters, selling the game is a responsibility for the whole game,” he added.

“The NRL must introduce minimum standards that coaches and players cannot evade. Who wants to hear from the assistant coach in the big final week?”

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