Rugby Southland has taken a stand after a young club rugby referee was physically abused by a Marist Senior C player.
The player, who received a 15-week playing standdown at a judicial hearing held a week after the incident, would not return to club rugby until the end of June next year at the earliest.
Joshua Hamil, who was assigned the game between Blues and Marist on July 6 at Blues, was refereeing the most senior game of his young referee career when he was charged in the back by the offending player.
Rugby Southland referee education officer Kirk Rae said the player could easily have run past Hamil but instead shoved him in the back.
Rae said the 15-week standdown was one of the longest imposed in Southland club rugby in the past 20 years.
The standdown allocation was issued by the New Zealand Rugby Union guidelines, which were implemented by the judicial committee.
It was an isolated incident and Rae said there was no other event of the type recorded in Southland club rugby.
Rae added that the game was lucky to have a referee as it was only because the game Hamil had been assigned to had been cancelled that he was allocated the Blues-Marist game.
Hamil, who usually refereed age-group rugby, had the full support of the referee board and Rae had contacted him the night of the incident to reassure him that he was doing a good job.
Club liaison officer Mike Mannix said they gave him support and made sure that his confidence wasn't knocked.
Hamil had since gone "from strength to strength", Rae said.
By the end of the club rugby season Hamil was selected to referee the under-15 final.
Marist club president Mike Griffin said, "he [the player] was very remorseful and that it was completely out of character".
Both Rae and Mannix said players needed to remember referees were there to enforce the rules; they did not make them.
With Rugby Southland struggling to recruit new referees Rae said if there was a larger pool of referees to assign to games then they may be more suited to the different levels.
"At the end of the day it's a numbers game and we need more referees," Rae said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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