Storm lash Souths for NRL tactics attack

Melbourne got the better of South Sydney in their NRL round 21 clash at Central Coast Stadium.
Melbourne got the better of South Sydney in their NRL round 21 clash at Central Coast Stadium.

The fuse has been lit for an explosive NRL finals series with Melbourne getting personal with fellow competition heavyweights South Sydney.

Currently sitting first and fourth on the ladder, the teams are headed for a top-four showdown and there will be no love lost after trading bitter verbal blows.

Storm boss Dave Donaghy on Thursday came out swinging after an extraordinary attack on Melbourne by Rabbitohs general manager of football Shane Richardson.

After their 10-point loss last round, Richardson questioned the Storm's wrestling tactics, leniency from the NRL judiciary and the special treatment afforded to Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith.

Donaghy responded by describing Richardson's comments as "stupid" and that he was a puppet for Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett.

Donaghy said while Richardson delivered the message, he believed Bennett was the mastermind behind the attack which comes after successive losses for the Bunnies.

"I don't think Shane believes anything he's said, there's the master puppeteer in the background, and when you're team's a bit down you're looking to deflect attention," Donaghy told AAP.

"Shane's been around the game for a long time and I've got enormous respect for him but he probably should have just had a cup to tea and a lie down mid-afternoon before saying comments as stupid as those."

Donaghy said the Storm had gone to the length of checking with the NRL this week that their tactics were above board.

"The reality is that we play within the spirit of the game and within the rules and we've checked with the NRL the last 48 hours to ensure if there there's any challenges around that they'd let us know and they've assured us that there aren't," he said.

"We expect that the officials will continue to officiate what's in front of them rather then be influenced by external white noise and hot air."

Donaghy said Richardson was trying to re-write history by accusing Melbourne of inventing wrestling tactics, as he believed they came from Brisbane under Bennett's watch 20 years ago.

The Storm boss said the wrestling comments were an annual broadside that always surfaced in the lead-up to finals and he usually brushed them aside.

But this time he felt he needed to defend his club's players.

"Every year we hear the same rubbish pushed down the highway from Sydney by factions that still think it's the north-east Australian rugby league," he said.

"We don't make any apologies for our performance; it's up to others to step up rather than expecting us to step down.

"The game has never been safer or scrutinised on field; it's never been more accountable with the match review committee and judiciary and our team will continue to do what we've done over the previous 19 rounds."

Australian Associated Press