A junior rugby league player faces police charges and a likely life ban from the sport for the alleged assault of a referee at the weekend.
The case of a 17-year-old player from Wyong, who was deregistered on Monday morning by the Country Rugby League after the incident in a game against Lakes United should serve as a warning to other players, the CRL said.
The player is being interviewed by police over the incident in which a 21-year-old referee was reported to have been punched and left bleeding. The player’s team captain was also said to have been assaulted when he tried to separate the referee and his attacker.
“It’s not a great look for the game but if people can look at that and see it is not going to be tolerated, that is a positive thing,” a Country leagues spokesman told The Newsroom.
“It’s an isolated incident … [but] it’s a problem in society and in sport at the moment.”
The head of the CRL, Terry Quinn, said the organisation had a zero-tolerance policy towards violence on and off the field and was taking this incident very seriously.
“Our referees must be protected as they are a vital component of our game and any violent behaviour towards them will not be tolerated,” he said.
Junior referees are under instructions not to discuss their experiences with the media, but one youngster from Sydney’s northern beaches told The Newsroom he had experienced abuse from both players and parents at matches he had refereed for players aged 10 to 15.
“It is just completely wrong,” he said. “Refs are there to adjudicate the match and … players are not allowed to touch referees.”
He said the only way to handle abusive or violent behaviour was to deal with it quickly and professionally.
“I once got abused by a player [who] touched me on the back and he abused me the whole game. I gave him numerous warnings and I got sick of it and sent him off,” he said.
In another incident he witnessed a parent abuse the referee from the sideline. He said the referee stopped the game and reported the incident to the ground manager who escorted the parent from the park.
The CRL spokesman said junior referees were trained in how to deal with aggressive players on the field but situations such as the assault at the weekend presented a challenge.
“I don’t think anyone’s prepared for that because it is not something that usually happens,” he said.
The CRL will wait for the result of the police investigation before it decides how to punish the offender, but a life ban is likely while Rugby League is trying to protect referees and stop even minor transgressions by players.
Two Premier League players, Bulldogs’ enforcer David Klemmer and Broncos speedster James Roberts, will face the game’s judiciary on contrary conduct charges for simply touching referees. – Jesse Mullens
Photo of the Central Coast incident as supplied to and published by The Daily Telegraph.