THERE are few worse things you can accuse a player of than being a diver. Which is why Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah, having vomited at half-time following a hit of which he had no recollection, was desperate to set the record straight.
Drama ... Steve Matai accuses Robbie Farah of diving, which the Tigers hooker later denied, in an exchange that sparked a brawl at Bluetongue Stadium yesterday. Photo: Steve Christo
''I wouldn't take a dive,'' Farah said yesterday, after agitated Manly players made that suggestion while he was being treated - the ensuing stoppage resulting in Sea Eagles centre Steve Matai being penalised, placed on report and sin-binned.
''He got me pretty good. I just remember Leedsy [strength and conditioning coach Andrew Leeds] talking to me out there and just telling me to take my time and try and come around. The boys were telling me that a couple of them were having a go at you, but I can't remember. I'm disappointed [by the suggestion] … I don't think I went too well in the second half. You can probably tell by my performance that I wasn't taking a dive.''
Matai was sin-binned after giving Farah a whack on his back after the hooker had been treated. The Manly player had attempted a charge-down on a passing Farah, leaping to stop the ball and raising his arms in the air as he did so, making contact with the Tigers player as he came down.
While no Sea Eagles player or official publicly accused Farah of play-acting, it was clear from their actions on the field that they had doubts about the extent of his injuries.
''It didn't look like there was too much in it, and if it does go to - and I don't think it should - but if it does go to the referees committee, I think we might be calling on the Balmain player to maybe throw in some evidence as well,'' Manly coach Des Hasler said. ''Until it's reported on, we'll keep our fingers crossed.''
Asked whether Farah made more of the hit, Hasler said: ''You'll have to ask Robbie Farah that.''
Farah said he did not even know who had hit him. ''I just got stung,'' he said. ''I don't really remember … I didn't black out. I just got shook up and spaced out. I don't even know who got me. Some of the boys said it was Matai. I can't remember what happened. It just shook me up a bit.''
The contentious moment occurred just before half-time. Farah received treatment for several minutes from Leeds, while Manly protested to referee Shayne Hayne through Matai and captain Jamie Lyon; the latter urging the official to ''look at him''.
Video referee Steve Clark reviewed footage of the incident several times, and eventually called or Matai to be penalised, with Hayne telling Matai: ''It's been reviewed, you've collected him high, it's on report.''
Matai replied: ''Are you serious?'' The Manly player then approached Farah and gave him a sturdy slap on the back. Hayne called Matai back and sent him to the sin bin - probably the first time a pat on the back has led to that result, although former Balmain prop Steve Roach was once reprimanded for patting an official on the head.
Sea Eagles players were adamant the initial hit by Matai was legal.
''I didn't think there was a lot in it,'' winger Michael Robertson said. ''I'm not a ref. It's his call. There might have been a bit of gamesmanship … I didn't think there was a lot in it, but they [the officials] obviously saw something in it, so it was a penalty.''
Tigers doctor Donald Kuah confirmed Farah had suffered concussion. Another team official said when Farah was asked on the field if he wanted to be substituted, given Matai had been reported, the player had no idea what he meant.
''I just felt crook, I had a bit of a spew at half-time, got through the game but I was a bit of a passenger,'' Farah said afterwards.
Tigers players denied their skipper would take a dive. ''No way, mate,'' said Chris Heighington, who gestured towards Matai after his whack on the back. ''He [Farah] is a tough player. He's an 80-minute player. He got hit high, and the refs thought it was a penalty. That's it.''
But he held nothing against Matai. ''It's in the heat of the battle,'' he said.