NRL chief executive David Gallop has responded to Manly fullback Brett Stewart's targeting of him with a try-scoring celebration on Monday night by suggesting he had taken the focus from his achievement of surpassing 100 tries for the club.
Stewart showed that he had not got over the four-match ban imposed on him after he was charged with sexual assault at the start of the 2009 season when he jumped to his feet after crossing for the second of his three tries against Canberra and pretended to be riding a horse.
The Herald was later told Stewart's actions were intended to imitate someone galloping - a play on Gallop's surname and a direct shot at the NRL boss.
Stewart imitates riding a horse as part of his celebration.
Stewart declined media interviews after the match and would not answer questions about the bizarre try celebration as he walked to his car, but he did tell Channel Seven: ''It was good to be back having a gallop.''
Sea Eagles officials did not want to discuss the incident yesterday and Gallop was also reluctant to comment but he called on Stewart to get on with his playing career.
''He should be pleased with scoring 101 tries but we remain comfortable with the action we took in relation to the player and the club's conduct at its 2009 season launch,'' Gallop said. ''Constantly drawing attention to it won't change that.''
The ill-feeling from the Manly camp towards Gallop reignited earlier this year when the NRL chief executive told reporters there was a ''clear and stark'' difference between the actions of Stewart and Wests Tigers star Benji Marshall after deciding to take no action against the latter over an assault charge.
Marshall had launched the NRL season, as Stewart did in 2009.
However, NRL officials have always maintained that the four-match ban was imposed on Stewart for bringing the game into disrepute by being intoxicated and asked to leave Manly's Wharf Hotel, where the Sea Eagles held their season launch.
He was charged with sexual assault over an incident alleged to have happened that night but was later cleared in court.
The NRL also cut Stewart - the face of the game at the time - from their television advertising campaign at a cost of more than $10,000 and fined the Sea Eagles $100,000 over the boozy season launch at which second-rower Anthony Watmough also became embroiled in an altercation with club sponsor Paul Durazza.
Gallop said the difference between the Marshall and Stewart incidents was that in the case of the former Test fullback there had been ''clear evidence of misconduct on the night that was separate from the allegations of sexual assault''.
Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler, chief executive Graham Lowe and owner Scott Penn held a media conference to ''set the record straight about what really did happen in the case of Brett Stewart'' and called on Gallop to apologise.
However, the NRL responded by releasing details of the Sea Eagles' own report into the behaviour of their players at the club's 2009 season launch, which noted: ''A Caucasian male, Brett Stewart, was asked to leave Main Bar due to intoxication.''
Before Monday night's match against Canberra, Stewart had not scored a try since 2009 as he battled a series of injuries that has meant he has spent most of the past two years on the sideline.
However, he appears to have overcome the hamstring problems that forced him to withdraw from four consecutive games this season and he will have an opportunity to add to his try-scoring tally next Monday night against Gold Coast.
Stewart is the third Sea Eagles player in the club's 64-year history to reach a century of tries after crossing three times in the 20-0 shut-out over Canberra at Brookvale Oval on Monday night and he trails Steve Menzies (151 tries) and Bob Fulton (129) as the club's leading try-scorers.
The only change to the Manly team to play the Titans at Skilled Park is the return of prop and co-captain Jason King from a rib injury.
Meanwhile, the Titans yesterday announced the re-signing of former Test prop Luke Bailey until the end of the 2013 season. Gold Coast have also been linked to Roosters forward Nate Myles, Melbourne centre Beau Champion and former Penrith halfback Craig Gower. Bailey's re-signing was welcome news after ex-Test back-rower Brad Meyers retired and forward Anthony Laffranchi (UK Super League) and hooker Nathan Friend (Warriors) announced they would be leaving next year.
The club has already snared Bulldogs centre Jamal Idris and Cronulla prop Luke Douglas for next season.