PENRITH Panthers coach Matthew Elliott was last night questioned by his general manager Mick Leary after Elliott met with sacked Canberra star Todd Carney at the team hotel on Saturday night prior to the Panthers clash with the Raiders.
Carney, axed from the Raiders during the week after his recent public drinking spats, was having a beer with two of Penrith’s coaching staff when Elliott joined them shortly before midnight.
Canberra chief executive Don Furner was concerned about Elliott possibly encouraging Carney to drink, although Elliott stated it was an innocent meeting – where the now Panthers coach did not have a drink himself.
As tensions between the two NRL clubs start to grow yet again, Leary phoned Elliott on his way home from Canberra to confirm what took place.
“I’m not happy about it,” he said.
Furner was seriously concerned, asking how an NRL coach could be involved in a ‘drinking meeting’ with a player sacked for alcohol-related issues.
“The last thing Todd Carney needs right now is to be having a beer with somebody.” Furner said.
“I can’t believe that he would do something like that.”
Elliott, strongly denied calling for the get together, saying he was an innocent party.
Elliott apparently got a phone call while in his hotel room after he had returned from dinner with his children,Â the caller saying that Carney was downstairs.
“I walked downstairs to say g’day to them,” Elliott said. “I was in tracksuit pants and a pair of slippers. That’s the truth of it.”
Elliott said he had no idea why Carney was at the hotel, which is next to the Canberra Casino.
“I don’t know whether they were going to the casino, which was right next door,” Elliott said.
“But they were having a beer, I wasn’t. It’s not really my go the night before a game.”
It emerged later that Carney was invited to the hotel by Penrith assistant coach Wayne Collins.
Elliott said he didn’t know Carney, who was with teammate Bronx Goodwin and another player not playing, would be downstairs.
“It wasn’t a pre-arranged meeting at all, I swear on my kids’ lives,” he said.
Penrith tried to sign Carney earlier this year before he re-signed with Canberra and, when it emerged he was going to be sacked by the Raiders, the Panthers again loomed as the club he would most likely turn to.
That has since been derailed with the NRL’s decision to deregister Carney next season, although Elliott claimed he was still concerned for Carney.