A seemingly innocent image of two young footy stars shaking hands after scoring a try has left rugby league fans divided.
When Penrith centre Matt Burton crossed for a slick four-pointer against Brisbane in the first half at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night, the celebrations with his teammates were subdued to say the least.
Seconds after planting down the ball, Burton could be seen shaking hands with winger Brian To’o, with the post-try reaction in the round six NRL clash best described as mute.
The celebration was a deliberate message to a couple of veteran journalists who publicly accused the competition leaders of not respecting their opponents.
Brian To’o (pictured left) ‘celebrates’ with Matt Burton after his try on Thursday in Brisbane – pre-game, the Panthers were accused of disrespecting their NRL rivals
Plenty of fans were quick to voice their opinions on the matter via social media, with Panthers coach Ivan Cleary left bemused by talk of his young team supposedly showboating.
‘We have been reasonably successful and what comes with that is we get a little bit of niggle toward our boys, especially because they are young,’ he said this week.
‘I guess at the moment our boys are combating that however they can.
‘I’m always on the lookout to make sure we are behaving the right way… I’m not too worried.’
When again quizzed on the ‘issue’ on Thursday night, Cleary went a step further, believing his talented squad, who remain unbeaten in 2021 after six games, are victims of tall-poppy syndrome.
‘Respect is a value of our team… I guess through a bit of success (the past 18 months) people look at us differently maybe,’ he said in the post-game press conference.
‘In my opinion if I thought it was getting out of hand I would do something about it.’
In the lead-up to Thursday’s game in Brisbane, the Panthers made light of their perceived arrogance on Instagram.
A clip from a training drill showing Burton collecting a grubber before scoring a try where he then shakes hands with teammate Charlie Staines in a mocking fashion was ‘liked’ by footy fans more than 15,000 times.
Panthers halfback and captain Nathan Cleary isn’t buying into hype his talented footy team don’t respect their opponents in the NRL
Panthers five-eighth Jerome Luai (pictured top, above) has been accused of repeatedly niggling his opponents in the heat of battle
The suggestion the young Panthers need to be pulled into line was initially raised in the media this week following their round five win over Canberra.
Stand in fullback Stephen Crichton was fined $1350 by the NRL for ‘niggling’ Raiders forward Joseph Tapine mid-match following a try by Staines in the fiery tussle on April 9.
The Raiders were left fuming after they were slugged with a $10,000 fine following a trainer’s involvement in the subsequent melee during the heated encounter.
The NRL felt the Raiders trainer sparked the melee after touching the arm of two Panthers players – James Fisher-Harris and Tyrone May.
Penrith next take on Newcastle on April 22 on home soil at BlueBet Stadium, in Sydney’s west.