Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary fined $20,000 for NRL referee criticism

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has been fined $20,000 by the NRL for questioning the integrity of referees after the Panthers’ win over Canberra on Saturday.

Cleary said he felt like the referees “managed” the Raiders back into the game after the table-topping Panthers scored four unanswered tries early in the match, before the Raiders hit back with two in the second half.

Despite winning 28-12, Cleary was unimpressed by the match officials.

“It felt like they were being managed back into the game,” Cleary said.

“That’s all I can say. Some really strange calls.”

Australian Rugby League commissioner Peter V’landys described Cleary’s comments as “deplorable” to AAP and promised a “financial deterrent”.

“You can’t question people’s integrity, no matter what,” he said.

“This was straight to the integrity of the referee. To say he managed it to bring the other team in is deplorable.

“If anyone thinks the NRL is going to tolerate their employees being abused like that, they’ve got something coming.”

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said he was “disappointed” in Cleary.

“Our leaders should be professional and set the standard for our game. Comments like this will not be tolerated. The foundation of our competition is its integrity and Ivan’s comments undermined that,” Abdo said.

“At times our officials, like players, will make errors during games. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on those individual decisions, but we will not accept the integrity of our officials being questioned.

“Every Monday, we live stream a football briefing explaining every contentious decision. Our officiating is as open and transparent as it can possibly be.”