Manly Sea Eagles boss Scott Penn savages NRL over finals stadium policy

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Furious Manly chairman Scott Penn says it is an “absolute disgrace” that they were not permitted a home final against Penrith, saying they deserved to have been playing before a parochial crowd as the Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters did in securing narrow wins on the weekend.

The Sea Eagles were gutted by their elimination from the competition, with a controversial try awarded to Panthers centre Tyrone Peachey breaking a 10-10 deadlock with six minutes remaining on Saturday night before Penrith scored again at the death to prevail 22-10.

About Eagles
Eagle is a common name for many large birds of prey of the family Accipitridae; it belongs to several groups of genera that are not necessarily closely related to each other.
Most of the 60 species of eagles are from Eurasia and Africa. Outside this area, just 14 species can be found – two in North America, nine in Central and South America, and three in Australia.

Manly Sea Eagles boss Scott Penn savages NRL over finals stadium policy

About savages
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Penrith ends Manly’s season

The Penrith Panthers have defeated Manly 22-10 at Allianz Stadium, ending the Sea Eagles’ 2017 season.

Manly Sea Eagles boss Scott Penn savages NRL over finals stadium policy

The game was staged before an underwhelming crowd of 15,408 at Allianz Stadium, where Manly were forced to play under the NRL’s semi-finals stadiums policy. Penn believes that in having to travel away from the northern beaches they were stripped of an advantage afforded to other “home” teams in the finals.

The club’s majority owner plans to convey his displeasure to the NRL on Monday, arguing that clubs such as Manly and Cronulla should be able to host finals at their regular home grounds in the first week of the semi-finals “at the very least”. The Sharks were also technically the home team against North Queensland at Allianz on Sunday, a match that drew another modest attendance.

“I’m absolutely ropeable. It’s an absolute disgrace,” Penn said on Sunday. “You cannot have a home final not at your home ground. Let’s pack ’em to the rafters at Lottoland.

“I am more adamant today than I’ve ever been in 10 years as chairman. We would have had an absolutely parochial crowd at Lottoland. We had a dominant crowd [on Saturday night] but why were the Panthers cheerleaders there if it’s our home final?

“It’s not a home final then, it’s just a neutral game. You either have a home final or you don’t. The Roosters had a home final at their home ground, Melbourne had a home final at their home ground and they were huge advantages. Both [games] were decided in the last couple of plays.”

The NRL’s position on stadiums for Sydney semi-finals is not new. With all finals in the city having to be played at either ANZ Stadium or Allianz Stadium the likes of Manly, Cronulla, Penrith and St George Illawarra don’t get to play games at their usual home venues even if they have earned hosting rights.

But with crowds on Saturday night and Sunday having not been far beyond what could have been squeezed into Lottoland and Southern Cross Group Stadium respectively Penn believes it is time for the policy to be changed and will make that argument with the NRL on Monday.

“We owe it to our fans and our members to make sure that we give them the representation that they deserve,” he said.

Penn also added his support to an exasperated Manly coach Trent Barrett, backing his protests about Peachey’s crucial try – “it clearly hit his hand and it was propelled forward” – and one to Sea Eagles centre Dylan Walker that was overturned earlier in the second half when he was ruled to be offside. NRL referees boss Tony Archer has defended the call by bunker officials not to overturn the on-field decision on Peachey, saying there was insufficient evidence that the ball hit his hand.

That did little to placate Manly. The Penn family has a 66 per cent stake in the Sea Eagles and the chairman says their exit from the finals will hurt the club’s bottom line significantly. Given the circumstances, it is hard for them to swallow.

“This is a billion-dollar game,” Penn said. “There has to be consistency across the game. The NFL has no room for error. If [a decision] ever gets referred they always make the right decision.

“You’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars [in lost revenue]. You’re talking merchandise, prize money, sponsor bonuses, additional member interest. It has a huge impact.

“You can’t have these things deciding games. If we weren’t good enough on the night, we weren’t good enough. But that didn’t happen [on Saturday] night. At 10-10 we were in the mix and by rights and had every chance to win if the decisions went the right way.”