Phil Gould can't believe it.

The Penrith Panthers supremo said so five times in less than 90 seconds in the latest episode of his podcast Six Tackles with Gus.

Never one to keep quiet when an issue in rugby league is grinding his gears, Gould revealed how incensed he was at the $A2100 fine the NRL slapped Sam Thaiday with, after the Broncos' round three clash against the Melbourne Storm.

Thaiday was charged with contrary conduct for yanking on Storm prop Jesse Bromwich's injured thumb last Friday night. Kiwi captain Bromwich came into the game with the ailment and Thaiday knew it, so he intentionally targeted the digit.


Initially, Thaiday was told to cough up $A1500, but he fought the charge and lost, adding an extra $A600 to the fine. Gould was outraged.

"I cannot believe this, I honestly can't believe it," Gould said. "All coaches now will have their players out there with some bandage on - you can't touch their hands, you can't touch their elbows.

"They were mucking around. Honestly, I just don't think it's an issue, I really don't.

"Oh my god, I cannot believe this was even [an issue].

"What if you've got a knee guard? What if you've got an elbow guard? What if you've got a shoulder guard? What if you know he's got a cracked rib?

"What are we going to do? Sam would have been mucking around with him ... and that's up to Jesse to sort it out. I can't believe it."

Prior to the 2017 season kicking off, the NRL announced it was introducing a fines system for low-grade offences to reduce the likelihood of players getting suspended for minor offences, following a build-up of demerit points.

Gould welcomed this move, but was fearful from the start it would see players hit in the hip pocket for the pettiest of indiscretions. Now, his fear has been realised.

"That's what I feared at the start of the year when they said [they were introducing a fines system]," Gould said. "Now, we've downgraded the minor incident to the ridiculous.

"We'll fine you for whatever we think doesn't look right or for whatever people complain about on social media.

"I honestly can't believe it. I want someone to explain to me why that is so against the spirit of the game, when that is the game."


Thaiday got off lightly compared to what three NRL clubs had to fork out for breaching concussion protocol on the weekend.

The Gold Coast Titans ($A150,000), St George Illawarra Dragons ($A100,000) and Newcastle Knights ($A150,000) were all hit with heavy fines for a failure to follow the strict rules around treating players with suspected concussion.

Josh Dugan appeared to cop a head knock in the Dragons' win over Cronulla, but was allowed to play on. The Knights were slugged for the same amount, after Brendan Elliot stayed on after copping a swinging arm from Hymel Hunt, while the Titans fine relates to their handling of incidents involving Kane Elgey, Joe Greenwood and Ryan Simpkins.

Gould said he understood player welfare was at the heart of the decision, but wondered whether the game was going too far in forcing clubs to assess players for head knocks the minute they stayed down with any injury.

"People think it's easy to determine whether a player is concussed or not," Gould said. "You know a player may be stunned or a player may be hurt, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's concussed.

"Just because a player goes down injured doesn't mean we should have to get them off to test them for concussion all the time."

The 59-year-old said the fines were a clear indication the NRL is on a mission to ensure no player's wellbeing is compromised in the pursuit of competition points. He was worried the severity of the punishments will scare teams into being overly-cautious when it comes to assessing players.

"We're now seeing more and more head clashes, we're seeing more players go off for a head injury assessment [HIA]," he said. "It's a difficult issue and if you're going to throw fines on top of that, well now we're going to be jumping at shadows.

"As soon as a bloke rubs his head because he got a knock, we're going to say he's got to come off and have a HIA.

"This is the problem that we've got ... it doesn't mean they've always got concussion.

"We understand now no-one's going to allow that attitude to maintain and we're going to keep running players off the field to the HIA, I don't know where it's going to end."