Manly are expected to contest a $20,000 fine slapped on the club by the NRL, believing their coach Trent Barrett was effectively collateral damage in a crackdown by chief executive Todd Greenberg that included an even heavier fine handed to Cronulla.
The Sharks were slapped with a $30,000 penalty over post-match outbursts against the performance of referees made by Shane Flanagan after the Sharks' elimination from the semi-finals on Sunday while Barrett was also sanctioned for his comments about key decisions that went against the Sea Eagles as they crashed out of the competition on Saturday night.
The NRL sent breach notices to the two clubs on Tuesday afternoon, a day after Greenberg had called on the game to "grow up" and move beyond what he called a culture of blaming match officials for losses.
Manly issued a statement saying the club would be "reviewing the basis upon which the NRL breach notice was issued" but the Sea Eagles are privately adamant that Barrett did not bend the rules by questioning the integrity of match officials.
Barrett criticised the system of referees having to make call themselves immediately when they referred decisions to the video-review bunker as he disputed a controversial late try to Penrith's Tyrone Peachey in Manly's 22-10 defeat to the Panthers at Allianz Stadium.
He also hit out at the overturning by the bunker of an earlier try by Manly centre Dylan Walker and called on referees boss "to go into my shed and explain to my players that their season is now finished on the back of those two calls".
It is understood Manly's position is that an extremely disappointed Barrett did not cross the line with his emotional assessment but has been caught up in Greenberg's need to make a statement about referee bashing after Flanagan's tirade following the Sharks' 15-14 loss to North Queensland at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
In a statement NRL head of football Brian Canavan said Barrett had already received a warning this season.
"Our message is clear - no matter the significance of the match or the specific circumstances, coaches cannot cross the line," Canavan said.
"The integrity of our match officials and the game needs to be protected."
As forecast by Fairfax Media, Cronulla received a higher fine than Manly as the NRL took into account not only Flanagan's post-match press conference where he described the officiating as "disgraceful" but also a video interview filmed for members and an article on the club's website that linked refereeing standards with underwhelming crowd numbers for the first week of the finals.
Canavan said the comments of both Flanagan and Barrett went beyond "acceptable parameters" and accused them of damaging the game during the finals.
"In relation to the Sharks there were separate breaches in the media conference following the game, in a separate interview with the coach which was sent to members and in an article published on the club's website," Canavan said.
"That is why the proposed penalty is higher than we have generally issued in the past."
Cronulla said on Tuesday that they would "review and take advice on the contents of the breach notice and then make a decision as to our next course of action".
The Sharks and the Sea Eagles have five business days to respond to the notices.
The story Manly to fight fine with Barrett viewed as scapegoat for Flanagan first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.