Otorohanga rugby prop Whetu Barber will face the Waikato Rugby Union judiciary on Wednesday night and possibly an assault charge after a referee was struck in Morrinsville on Good Friday.
Barber, who had just returned from suspension after being red-carded in last year's Waikato premier A club championship semifinal between Otorohanga and Hamilton Old Boys at Otorohanga, was shown a red card by Hamilton referee Mark Gray while playing in a premier B match between Otorohanga and Morrinsville Sports at Campbell Park.
It is alleged Barber started to leave the field but then turned and struck the referee, knocking him to the ground.
The referee originally yellow-carded Barber after a flagging and report from an assistant referee for foul play but changed that to red following the player's reaction to that decision.
It is understood Gray was able to continue refereeing the match afterwards and was later cleared of any serious injury or concussion.
Waikato Rugby Union chief executive officer Graham Bowen, who is also the chairman of the Waikato Rugby Referees' Association, said on Saturday he had received the referee's report on the incident and a judicial hearing would take place on Wednesday night.
Gray is employed by the Waikato union as a video analyst for the national provincial championship team and Bowen said there was a strong possibility the referee could take a complaint of assault to the police in addition to any rugby judicial action.
"As a union and Mark's employer, we will also consider that option once the judicial process has taken its course," Bowen said.
"Apart from me being a ref, just as a Waikato rugby person, touching a ref in any way is not on.
"Referees are sacrosanct but we've got to let natural justice take its course and everyone be given the chance to put their case."
Barber has played rugby for several Waikato clubs including Raglan, Hamilton Marist, Fraser-Tech and Otorohanga, and also played in Hawke's Bay where he represented that province in the national championship.
He was convicted of assaulting two police officers in Hamilton in 2012.
- Waikato Times
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