EX TEAMMATES AMUSED BY VERBAL BANTAMWEIGHTS' EXCHANGE 17 July 2007 Mark Riddell and Dean Widders were having a chat in the gym next to the media conference room at Parramatta Stadium on Sunday when Eels coach Michael Hagan departed after fulfilling his post-match commitments and Rabbitohs coach Jason Taylor entered for his turn. Riddell, the Parramatta hooker, was about to say hello to Taylor, his former coach from the second half of last season, but didn't get a chance because as soon as Taylor and Hagan came across each other, it was on for young and old. Taylor was upset that Parramatta had refused to let Souths run their pre-match warm-up on the field directly behind the southern end of the stadium. Souths are adamant the Eels had agreed during the week leading up to the game to let them use warm-up space at the opposite end of the field to the home team. Details of the slanging match were still a bit sketchy on Sunday night, but after talking further to witnesses, the Herald has been able to establish its content. Hagan made a joking reference to recently retired superstar Andrew Johns coming down from Newcastle to join the Eels' coaching staff. It was a retort to a quip made by Taylor when he spoke on stage at Parramatta's end-of-season presentation function last year. Taylor had joked that Parramatta halfback Tim Smith had better get used to coaching the Eels this year, because Johns had coached Newcastle when Hagan was the official mentor. If ever there was a one-liner to fuel a feud, that was it. Numerous players and officials saw Taylor and Hagan verbally get stuck into each other. Riddell had been warming down on a stationary bike when Widders, who had played alongside him at Parramatta before joining South Sydney this year, came in to catch up with his old teammates after the game. Riddell and Widders, who were only a few metres away from the Taylor-Hagan action, both said it was something to see. "Me and Deano were talking and I saw 'JT' walk in," Riddell said. "I was going to shake his hand and talk to him, but next thing him and 'Hages' were into each other." With a laugh, Riddell then added: "They were coming up with some good lines. I was going to throw my two cents' worth in at one stage, but I thought better of it. Me and Deano were standing there with our mouths open. I said to Deano, 'Oh, f---, we might have to go toe to toe ourselves here."' Lock Widders was thoroughly entertained by the altercation. "Hages said a few things to him, and I thought JT came back with good replies," Widders said. "I was just enjoying it, really. I don't think [Taylor] let his emotions spill over. He had things to say and he said it. "It never got out of hand. It never looked like it was going to be something that would do any damage to the game or the clubs. "I think they both did it in a good way and got on with it. It never looked like it was going to get physical; they were both in control. It was enjoyable." There is nothing wrong with a good yelling match in rugby league. It's even better if the combatants can manage to come up with some stinging lines, which Taylor and Hagan did. At the very least, it shows how much they care. "Two bantamweights going head to head is good for the game," Souths chief executive Shane Richardson said yesterday. "There should be more of it. I hope we make the finals and come across the Eels again. It would sure make for a lot of interest." The stink in full TAYLOR: How was your warm-up? HAGAN: Good, thanks, how was yours? TAYLOR: It's pretty f---ing ordinary that you wouldn't let us warm up on the [southern] field. HAGAN: Well, it's obviously rattled you. TAYLOR: F--- off. HAGAN: We're going to get Joey down for a couple of [training] sessions this week. TAYLOR: You should, you need him. HAGAN: Why don't you work on catching the ball instead of wrestling all f---ing game? TAYLOR: How f---ed are you? You're living off what Brian Smith built here, while he's up in Newcastle rebuilding what you f---ed up.