11-year-old faces lifetime rugby ban for punching referee
AN 11-year-old boy who allegedly punched a referee after tackling him to the ground during an Under-12 club rugby game at the weekend could face a lifetime ban from the sport.
A disciplinary hearing will this week determine the fate of the Papatoetoe Rugby Football Club player, who is believed to have attacked the referee after he was given a yellow card for a high-tackle on a player on the opposing Marist Eastern side.
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Parents, spectators and officials were horrified by the incident at the Papatoetoe Sports Grounds that occurred 10 minutes into the second half.
One parent, who did not wish to be identified, said that the player was walking towards the goal posts when he turned around and "gave the ref the finger", before running at him.
"The ref had his back turned and was blindsided by the boy who dropped him to the ground," the witness told TVNZ.
"There was a bit of a scuffle on the ground and then the player punched the referee."
Auckland Rugby Referees Association referee manager Smudge McNeilage said the referee was not physically injured in the attack, but was "certainly affected".
"He was been resting at home, he has certainly been affected by the event."
A hearing overseen by the Auckland Rugby Union was scheduled to take place tomorrow, but may be delayed because of a separate disciplinary process being taken by Papatoetoe club.
The hearing would involve the referee association, the player and his parents, as well as witnesses from both teams, and could carry a maximum punishment of a life ban for the boy, said Mr McNeilage.