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Fittler and Johns at odds over Oates call

Brad Fittler is adamant the referees made the wrong call to deny Penrith a near-certain try in their semi-final loss to Brisbane on Friday.

Fittler and Johns at odds over Oates call

Brad Fittler is adamant the referees made the wrong call to deny Penrith a near-certain try in their semi-final loss to Brisbane on Friday.

Penrith legend Brad Fittler has questioned whether NRL players will abuse the referees' discretion to stop play for injury after the Corey Oates decision in Brisbane's semi-final win.

Penrith were denied a near-certain try early on Friday when play was stopped following a heavy collision between Oates and teammate Anthony Milford, with the Panthers racing away after scooping up the loose ball.


Fittler is adamant the referees made the wrong call, which came when the Broncos were leading 6-0.

"The facts point towards they made the wrong decision," Fittler said on The Sunday Footy Show.

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"When the bloke (Sione Katoa) picked up the ball, he never touched the bodies. He just picked the ball up. So from that moment, the incident is no different where the game is stopped or Penrith is scoring.

"And that's why the referees got it wrong, because there was no more danger to the player."

Andrew Johns disagreed with Fittler and applauded the referees for prioritising Oates' immediate welfare.

A bloodied Oates was taken from the field on a medi-cab with his neck in a brace and must pass concussion protocols this week if he is to play in Friday's preliminary final against Melbourne.

"That hit and the noise of the hit, it shook the stadium. I thought Corey Oates was clearly injured," Johns said.

"I applaud the referee for pulling it up. If we found out later, God forbid, that Corey Oates broke his neck or something... his instinct at that moment was 'something bad's happened'."

Fittler feared the decision could pave the way for coaches to instruct players to feign injury and take advantage of the referees' discretion to halt the match.

"For coaches who abuse rules, if they're willing to stop (for) a bloke going down, can people abuse this rule?" he said.

Brisbane icon Wally Lewis said he too was surprised play was stopped immediately, but revealed a senior refereeing official was satisfied with the way the incident was handled.

"Darren Lockyer (Nine commentator and former Broncos captain) and I spoke to one of the referees bosses last night asking about the reason for it and he was basically saying, 'We're prepared to accept a bit of criticism that comes our way, but our number one priority is we look after the health and safety of our players'," Lewis said.

"That's the number one, they can't afford to go the other way."

Panthers coach Anthony Griffin on Saturday refused to blame the call for their finals exit.

"We had our opportunities to win the football game," Griffin said.

"That is indicative of the whole year. There have been some calls in different moments of the game.

"But as a team and a club we are not going to sit back and complain about referee calls."


AAP



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