NRL investigating illegal Parramatta Eels move in victory over Penrith Panthers

The NRL is investigating an illegal in-game incident involving Parramatta’s trainer that ultimately cost Penrith extending its incredible home ground win streak.

The NRL is investigating an incident involving a Parramatta trainer who ran directly in front of the goalposts as Penrith’s Nathan Cleary was attempting a conversion which ultimately cost the Panthers a chance to send Friday night’s blockbuster into golden point.

Cleary was attempting to convert winger Taylan May’s 53rd minute try when Eels blue shirt trainer and assistant coach Steve Murphy raced away from the Eels goal line player huddle and straight in front of the posts when the Panthers star was kicking for goal.

The conversion missed and Penrith eventually lost by two points – 22-20. By full-time, the difference was that Cleary had kicked two goals compared to three landed by Eels goalkicker, Mitch Moses.

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The 2022 NRL operations manual states: “Trainers must not at any time enter the line of sight of a player when he is attempting a kick for goal, or do anything which may in any way unnecessarily interfere with or distract an opposition player whilst he is participating in the match or constitute some disadvantage to the opposing team.”

Cleary could not seek another kick at the goal under the rules with referees only having jurisdiction over players – not trainers. Any on-field unsanctioned act by a trainer could lead to an NRL-issued breach notice.

Eels trainer Steve Murphy heads towards the posts while Nathan Cleary begins his conversion attempt.
Eels trainer Steve Murphy heads towards the posts while Nathan Cleary begins his conversion attempt.
Steve Murphy runs under the posts during Nathan Cleary’s conversion.
Steve Murphy runs under the posts during Nathan Cleary’s conversion.

The NRL, Penrith and Parramatta were aware of the incident at BlueBet Stadium when contacted by The Daily Telegraph on Sunday.

“We are aware of the incident,” said NRL head of football, elite competitions, Graham Annesley.

“It will be looked at further as part of our normal review of the weekend of football on Monday.”

Pressed on whether he felt there was suspicion of foul play by Murphy, Annesley said: “I’ve already said we will look at it as part of our review.”

The Panthers preferred not to comment and wanted the matter left for the NRL to investigate.

Parramatta confirmed Murphy was the trainer and are adamant it was not a deliberate act. If Murphy is at fault, Parramatta could be breached or sent a ‘please explain’ by the NRL.

The NRL will on Monday seek to determine whether Murphy acted knowingly or simply started running back to his team’s bench before Cleary took the kick.

The Daily Telegraph viewed amateur footage of the incident where a fan can be heard yelling: “The trainer. What’s he doing?”

Cleary was from the sideline kicking toward the southern end of BlueBet Stadium when his kick narrowly missed to the right of the goalposts.

Murphy appears to veer slightly off course toward the right upright when running from the field.

Had Cleary kicked the conversion, the game was headed for a 22-all full-time score with golden point required to split the clubs.

This latest escapade adds to an already hostile rivalry between the two powerful western Sydney clubs.

The controversial conversion miss added to a dramatic night where Parramatta and Penrith staged arguable rugby league’s game-of-the-season.

Ironically, there was drama with Panthers trainer Pete Green in a finals match last year against the same opponents, Parramatta.

Green stopped play late in the match – which Penrith won 8-6 - after signalling to the referee to stop the game. The Panthers were fined $25,000 and Green was suspended for the remainder of the season, missing the club’s historic grand final win.

Originally published as NRL investigating illegal Parramatta Eels move in victory over Penrith Panthers

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