Rugby coach regrets using ineligible player
The coach of a Central Otago rugby team stripped of points for fielding an ineligible player is apologising to the club's supporters, sponsors and players for a "bad decision".
Clyde-Earnscleugh premier grade coach Cory Crosbie said the club had appealed an Otago Rugby Board decision to strip the team of 19 points, stand him down for three weeks as coach and a ban him from playing rugby for a year, as well as a two-year-ban for two managers and a $250 fine.
The Otago Football Union-appointed panel, at the hearing in Dunedin on Queen's Birthday Weekend, reduced the managers' suspension to 18 weeks, allowed Crosbie to play rugby, stripped the team of 12 points and retained the $250 fine.
Crosbie said he and the managers had made a bad decision when fielding the ineligible player during a game against Upper Clutha in Wanaka last month.
The club had argued at the appeal the Country Board's sanction against the team had not followed the right procedures, including that the board did not have an elected panel and it did not give them a judicial hearing, Crosbie said.
The administrators, supported by Alexandra lawyer Tim Cadogen, told the hearing panel how the premier team was short of a front-line with two injured props and the loss of a hooker due to study commitments, Crosbie said.
"We were playing a night game on a Thursday because of duck shooting and the last thing I wanted to do was pull out. It is the same penalty to default than to play an unregistered player."
The plan had been for Crosbie, who had not played for a year, to play for as long as he could, then "take the risk" and bring the other player on the field, he said.
"The team is very upset and it's taken a toll on them. I just want to apologise to sponsors, supporters and mainly players who have busted their arses off to get where they have got and to have one bad decision ruin the whole season for them," Crosbie said.
"The first job as coach is to make sure everyone is safe and unfortunately in country rugby that means playing people out of position or getting guys out of retirement just to put a team on the paddock."
Central Otago should follow Southland's lead where in division one or two, if a team could not field a front row, as long as it was within 24 hours, you could loan a prop from another club.
"They need to have something in place, otherwise you are bringing young guys up getting smashed and injured. I am not just going to throw anyone in there because I know how hard it was for me going from Number 8 to prop."
Other country clubs were in similar positions and had played ineligible players this season but got away with it, he said.
Last season, the club had played unregistered players on two occasions during default games - which had not helped its case at the hearing and was the justification behind stripping the team of not just the four points scored against Upper Clutha, but points from the games last season, he said.
"I am a bit upset about the points."
The club never appealed last season's penalties because it would have to pay $500 for a bottom-tier competition, he said.
"I am gutted. We had been one of the top teams ... because it is country rugby and Clyde is such a small town, it's such a hard thing to build up.
"There is so much pressure on them now."
It had been a "do or die" game on Saturday for Clyde-Earnscleugh who were up against Arrowtown, the competition's current top team on the leaderboard.
During the first round of the competition, Clyde-Earnscleugh faced dropping to the bottom six if they lost to Arrowtown. Despite a 9-10 loss, Clyde-Earnscleugh remain in the top six due to Upper Clutha beating Roxburgh. Crosbie, who played in the game, snapped his achilles tendon and was in Dunedin yesterday undergoing an operation.