Baffled rather than bitter, North Queensland coach Paul Green says he does not know why Wayne Bennett has dismissed those claiming Johnathan Thurston has been illegally targeted as “drama queens”.
And he was left scratching his head over the Broncos’ master mentor’s claim that the winless Cowboys had embraced the controversy over Newcastle’s manhandling of prized No.7 Thurston to try to divert attention away from their poor NRL season start.
Ahead of Friday night’s Suncorp Stadium clash, Bennett said it was ridiculous Cowboys No.7 Thurston had claimed it was now “open slather” on playmakers after the NRL failed to punish Newcastle enforcer Beau Scott.
Australian captain Cameron Smith called for the NRL to introduce new laws to protect playmakers after accusing Scott of trying to injure key players with late hits.
Green was livid over Newcastle’s manhandling of three-time Dally M Medallist Thurston in last round’s tight loss to Newcastle.
But Green tried to cut a calm figure ahead of their derby even when Bennett’s claims were repeated to him.
“I haven’t said anything about it publicly or otherwise since the press conference,” Green said of Newcastle’s treatment of Thurston when told the “drama queen” line.
“I was disappointed with how the whole game was managed but, apart from that, I haven’t said anything publicly so I am not sure who he is referring to there.
“And Wayne has always been a strong advocate for protecting players so I am not sure where he is coming from with respect to those comments.”
Asked why the Cowboys had blown up about Thurston’s treatment, Bennett said on Thursday: “They have lost two games in a row and at home – it’s a good way to deflect attention from yourself.”
But Green responded: “We are not shying away from our performance by a long stretch.
“We are as disappointed as anyone.”
Bennett was critical of the NRL for not doing more to police late hits that Thurston copped last round, leaving him with a black eye.
But Bennett said elite players like Thurston should expect to be targeted.
“What happened this week is that all the drama queens got out of the cage again,” he said.
“The game has not done enough about them (late hits) in my opinion, but the bottom line is they have been there for the last two years and they haven’t just been on Johnathan Thurston, I can tell you.
“Every half in the competition is in the same boat. And elite players always get more attention than anybody else.
“But I told them (NRL) 18 months ago that this would be an issue.”
However, Bennett was adamant Thurston’s open slather claim was ridiculous.
He also backed Scott’s hard-nosed tactics.
And Bennett scoffed at speculation the Cowboys’ pack would take matters into their own hands if Thurston copped similar rough treatment on Friday night.