Leading rugby referee Michael Tonks won’t be required to handle recalcitrant young players under a plan suggested by the Group 2 judiciary.
Leading rugby referee Michael Tonks won’t be required to handle recalcitrant young players under a plan suggested by the Group 2 judiciary.

Support grows for ban

A SUGGESTION made by Group 2 judiciary chairman Bill Gibbons that suspended players be prevented from code-hopping is receiving widespread approval from rival organisations.

Gibbons said he would seek discussions with Mid North Coast Rugby Zone after handing out a lengthy suspension to an under-16 player sent off in the junior league grand final for striking a referee.

As part of the written case notes, Gibbons said it was the board’s intention to advise the rugby body of the player’s suspension and request it be considered should the player apply to play rugby next year.

“There’s been a loophole in the system for a long time and I believe it’s in the best interests of all codes at junior level to co-operate on discipline,” he said.

“Otherwise some of these young blokes will laugh at the penalty, go somewhere else and run the risk of their behaviour being repeated all over again.

“It devalues the respect the penalty deserves and the player’s acknowledgement he’s done wrong and has to change his ways.”

Rugby administrator Des Hoy has been first to give the thumbs up.

“Actually, I thought it was a standard decision at school level but as far as the zone goes, I think it makes sense and we should have a policy,” he said. “I would especially welcome it if AFL and soccer took part as well, so if a meeting can bring us together, count me in.”

The rugby codes have recent history of under-age players switching codes while sentences are being served. A recent case this season has brought it to a head.

When a 16-year-old player was sent off in an age rugby match, an under-18 league game and a school rugby match – all within a five day period – alarm bells began ringing.

It is believed the player is no longer welcome in rugby union and has been deregistered and is still serving a lengthy suspension handed out after the rugby league matter.

However, Group 2 officials have admitted they could face a problem when the sentence expires, because the young player has made a number of statements to them and to his peers that he wouldn’t change a thing and would do it all again.

Gibbons said he was aware of the player concerned making those comments.

“With that attitude, I fear we may be seeing him in with us again,” he said. “The respect seems to have gone. I believe we can do something about getting it back if all the codes stick together.”

North Coast Football chairman Peter Rowe believes having an independent judiciary assists in heading off many disciplinary matters.

“With no connection to soccer they can consider the case differently to other sports,” he said.

“Of course, we still have our problem people but because there’s less collision in soccer, there’s less incentive to carry on like a fool.

“But I think having a ‘hot-list’ of problem players we can use to alert each other is a great idea.

“I for one wouldn’t welcome somebody into our game that’s done bad things in another sport.”

AFL North Coast president Rod MacPherson said he would also welcome co-operation and believed a notification system would be a great idea.

He noted three Sawtell under-18s had switched to his code after the 2009 grand final debacle but had returned to rugby league after their sentences expired.

“A blanket policy might not work when you talk about fairness issues but sharing information between each of us is a great idea,” he said.

“Notification of discipline problems and long suspensions makes sense. We’d love to have the discussion.”

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