Penn: Cagey issue can be resolved to host final
Manly are in serious danger of losing the right to host an NRL final after Saturday night's ugly attack on Will Chambers exposed a dangerous flaw in the suburban ground's player security procedure.
Manly chairman Scott Penn is adamant Lottoland should not be stripped of the right after NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg put the club on notice in the wake of the disgraceful incident, where the fan lunged at Chambers with a mobile phone as the Melbourne centre left the field after being sin binned.
Greenberg has warned that unless Manly can improve its security measures in the next two weeks the Sea Eagles would not be allowed to host a finals game.
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"The behaviour we saw from a fan (on Saturday night) was completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our game," Greenberg said.
"I have asked the integrity unit to work with Manly and NSW Police so we can ensure the individual is dealt with in an appropriate fashion that meets community expectations.
"We have advised Manly that changes to the Lottoland ground must be made in order for the venue to meet the standard required to host an NRL final."
But the problem for Manly is that the concerning area relates to a thoroughfare in front of the grandstand that is caged off when teams run out and leave the field at halftime and fulltime.
During the Chambers' sin binning the cage had remained slightly open to allow fans continued access through the area in front of the grandstand.
While Penn said the area would be completely shut off when players are sin binned in the future, the NRL will have to determine if that is enough to satisfy their security requirements, given players also frequently leave the field for injury treatment.
It would probably be unavoidable not to leave some access throughout the game to this area given the amount of foot traffic that passes by in front of the grandstand.
While Penn was understandably disappointed that the incident occurred, he was protective of Manly's right to host a final.
If the Sea Eagles finish fifth or sixth they will host a final in week one of the play offs.
"During the sin binning it was opened probably about a metre but there were two security guards on either side," Penn explained of the caged area.
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"This guy has come from nowhere and lunged over the top of the security guard.
"It was closed apart from the small gap. This is just a random incident.
"To be honest if a player was walking along the fence and someone decided to lunge at them there is not a lot (you can do about that)."
Asked if the area would be completely closed off in the future when players are leaving the field for sin binning incidents, Penn replied: "Most likely, yes."
There is no question the clash against Melbourne was extra volatile given the history between the clubs, and the Storm had actually also brought extra security on the night.
Penn said he would work with the NRL to try and find a suitable solution.
"We are happy to discuss it further," Penn said.
"When you have a mid-game incident such as that, which is unusual, then my understanding is that they mitigated it as much as they possibly could."
Penn said he would back any action taken against the individual.
"Clearly that is not behaviour that is acceptable at any level and action needs to be taken," Penn said.
"Our job is to protect our players and hold them in the highest esteem.
"Fortunately our security guys were on the case so he wasn't able to touch him but it is disappointing that an individual chose to take that action.
"It is a circumstance that we need to take note of.
"I think the fact he couldn't get to him is testament to the security guys.
"But the fact is it is not behaviour that anyone can accept and we will continue to improve."