Ricky snubs Robbo as grand final tensions rise
THE Sydney Roosters and Canberra Raiders stuck to their predictable scripts ahead of the Sunday's NRL grand final but the elephant in the room was the clear tension between the two coaches.
Ricky Stuart refused to look at Trent Robinson when the mentors posed with the trophy at a fan event in Martin Place on Thursday while he did it again after the press conference between the two teams.
Robinson looked at Stuart but the Raiders coach didn't acknowledge him, only looking ahead with a blank stare.
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The pair also didn't shake hands or look at each other after an uneventful press conference where the only topic that sparked hostilities was the NRL's controversial stripping rule.
Robinson expressed concern about the one-on-one strip after the Roosters' round 21 win over the Raiders in Canberra.
The Tricolours were on the end of a strip on two occasions, which turned the momentum of the game in the Raiders' favour.
The Roosters won but Robinson questioned if the new rule added to the value of the game.
He maintained his stance against the one-on-one strip interpretation at Thursday's grand final press conference.
"No, I haven't changed my opinion on it," Robinson said.
"I was clear on what I thought was needed in the game and that wasn't going to change.
"That is my opinion at the end of the season, even though it caused a bit of controversy.
"But that is the beauty of voicing that.
"It doesn't mean I'm right but it does mean that we can devote some conversation about it.
"I think is a part of the game now, so you have to train for it.
"But if there are three or four in a game over 150 tackles, it is a pretty small percentage."
Robinson's strong position on the stripping rule attracted big grins from the Canberra players.
Skipper Jarrod Croker smirked when the question was asked about the Raiders mastering the stripping rule.
"But we don't talk about it as much as everyone else to be honest," Croker said.
"It is just something that Hodgy (Hodgson) and a few of the other boys have pulled off in the big moments.
"But it is not something that we are going to hope wins us the game of footy."
Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson is the NRL's master of the strip.
Hodgson laughed when asked if criticism of Canberra's potent ability to strip the ball was unwarranted.
"I don't make the rules, mate," Hodgson said.
"I'm not meant to not like or like them. I just play the game and live and die by the rules.
"The rules are there for a reason. If you can exploit them it can certainly help you as a team in terms of swinging momentum.
"But it isn't a given play that you are just going to get the ball and it can be a bit of a risky play."
The Raiders don't have the Roosters grand final experience but Stuart believes his charges will be ready to play.
"It is a good education for a lot of our squad," he said.
"Most of our guys haven't experienced this.
"It is important for them to handle it and also enjoy the times they need to enjoy and concentrate on their preparation."
Stuart expects back-rower John Bateman to be fit despite being forced into quarantine with the flu, joking that he regularly tries to separate his English players.
"We try and quarantine the Poms as much as we can," he said.
"But he will be fine - he just has a virus.
"We've got another room for him.
"The main thing is to try and get him healthy but from what I've seen there will be no dramas."
Meanwhile, Robinson confirmed hooker Jake Friend was still a chance to play despite struggling with an ankle injury.
"He was close last week and couldn't get there but he will be in the running again," he said.
"That is why I put him in the 21."
Asked if he could carry two hookers into a grand final in Friend and young gun Sam Verrills, he replied: "We'll see."