Club bans prop for life after referee punched

Whetu Barber when he played for the Hawke’s Bay Magpies.
Whetu Barber when he played for the Hawke’s Bay Magpies.

Otorohanga rugby prop Whetu Barber has been given a further life ban - this time from his club.

The Waikato Rugby Union's judicial committee banned Barber for life on Wednesday night after he punched a referee in a club match last Friday.

And yesterday, the Otorohanga Sports Club said Barber was also banished from the club.

Barber admitted the charge of striking Te Awamutu referee Mark Ray after being red-carded while playing in a Good Friday match for the Otorohanga premier B side against Morrinsville Sports B at Morrinsville's Campbell Park.

Barber may yet be the subject of a police complaint over the incident.

"I believe that's going to happen, or has happened - from Mark's point of view," WRU chief executive Graham Bowen said.

However, Ray would not confirm whether he had laid a complaint, or was intending to, when he spoke to the Waikato Times.

Barber was yellow-carded for elbowing a player and then red-carded for talking back to the referee. He was leaving the field when he returned and punched the referee.

Last year, Barber was yellow-carded in the Waikato premier A championship semifinal for a careless tackle but was later cited and suspended for five weeks for a dangerous spear tackle. He missed the final and the first four weeks of this year's competition.

Waikato Rugby Union operations manager Bill Heslop said Barber and his partner attended the judicial hearing on Wednesday.

Barber has until Wednesday to file an appeal against his WRU ban, and can still do so despite no longer being an Otorohanga club member.

When asked for his opinion on the judicial hearing, Ray said: "No-one wants a referee to be punched, so the outcome was because Whetu punched a referee."

It's not the first time Barber has been in trouble.

In 2012, he assaulted two police officers during a drunken night out while he was playing for Fraser Tech Rugby Club.

As the two officers attempted to handcuff him, Barber punched one in the right cheek and the other in the face, the court was told at his sentencing.

Both suffered a variety of injuries including a cut lip and gums, and swelling and bruising. Pepper spray was eventually used to arrest Barber.