Manly Sea Eagles boss Scott Penn savages NRL over finals stadium policy
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.
The game was staged before an underwhelming crowd at Sydney's Allianz Stadium, where Manly were forced to play under the NRL's semifinals stadiums policy. Penn believes 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 semifinals "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 semifinals 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.
- Sydney Morning Herald