Wayne Bennett has fired a barb at Ricky Stuart, labelling him a "drama queen" over the Canberra coach's suggestion he was no longer as proud to be involved with the NRL.
The two long-time mentors were in agreement that the ARL Commission and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg were right to introduce a "no fault" stand down policy following an off-season from hell.
However the South Sydney coach accused Stuart of histrionics and taking his argument too far when he told Fox Sports' League Life that his regard for the game had waned.
"Like all our fans we respect the game and we want to have a game that we're proud of," Stuart said.
"At the moment I'm not. And I know a lot of people here wouldn't be as proud as what they would be over the many, many years."
It prompted a sharp retort from Bennett, who accused people who make similar comments of losing sight of everything which rugby league had done for them.
"I can't believe some of the silly statements," Bennett said when asked about Stuart's comments.
"They earn a living from this game, they've all been a part of it for so long, they've seen so many things.
"It's been a tough period but we've had it before, we managed them and we've moved on.
"We've got a few drama queens out there to be honest with you."
Bennett said the NRL was forced to act after having its name tarnished by a tsunami of off-field incidents.
He joked that the NRL competition should run all-year round to avoid any future scandal-plagued summers and said he supported Bennett and ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie's tough stand.
"They'll get the message when they realise the game isn't going to have a place for them anymore," Bennett said.
"They will get the message."
"Everybody is conscious we're working with young men and that no one is perfect.
"It wasn't overdue but I think what happened necessitated that type of decision to show that the game was fair dinkum about protecting the game."
Australian Associated Press