Bay of Plenty Rugby has fired off lengthy bans for two players after a horrendous weekend of school and club games saw 11 red cards issued across the region.
Two players have been suspended for 52 weeks and 34 weeks respectively by Bay of Plenty Rugby for their recent, separate cases.
In the first case, a ball carrier was struck in the face by a would-be tackler with a sickening swinging arm tackle, that saw the ball carrier rendered unconscious before he landed on the ground.
The referee officiating the match said it was “the most ugly piece of foul play” they had seen in 12 years of service.
The injured player had to be airlifted to hospital with a suspected fractured cheek bone, while the carded player has been suspended for 52 weeks.
Bay of Plenty Rugby said the second case was a misconduct charge brought against a senior player who verbally swore and abused a referee after the full time whistle. In that case, the player was suspended for 34 weeks.
All cases are heard by the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union’s Disciplinary Committee, made up of community based volunteers, with a vast and extensive rugby pedigree.
Community Rugby Manager Pat Rae said the behaviour simply wasn’t good enough.
“In a weekend where there were 74 games of rugby held across the region from Under 11 to Premier Mens and everything in between, it’s a shame that a handful of games had really poor player behaviour,” Rae said.
“Punching, stomping, shoulder charging dangerous tackles & referee abuse offences are all deliberate acts that require a conscious effort on the part of the player to be committed. These are all totally avoidable.
“It was such a busy week last week for our Disciplinary Committee, we had to bring in more volunteers and hold multiple hearings across three consecutive nights in order to hear them all before the player’s next matches.”
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union added they are trialling a new way of dealing with disciplinary matters in the junior and secondary school space which is based on the restorative justice principles.
The new system sees youth players admit their behaviour as detailed in the referee’s report before the matter is then referred to a Whanau Group Conference involving the player, his whanau, the referee and coaches, managers and school teachers in charge.
Rae said the purpose of these conferences is to ensure that the player accepts responsibility for the actions on the field, and suitable actions or tasks are put in place where the player can learn.
“It’s only early days but there have been some interesting outcomes so far,” he said.
“The players have been far more willing to be held responsible for their behaviour and they have also self-imposed voluntary stand downs.
“The really cool aspect though has been how the players have problem solved the reasons behind their offending and have come up with strategies to learn how to become better players.
“Where other players are involved, letters of apology are a must. Verbal apologies to their teammates for letting them down are also non-negotiable and with everyone having phones, these apologies are filmed in order to give them a sense of importance.
Rae added other self-imposed penalties have included washing the jerseys, setting up the fields, cleaning the change rooms, or being a touch judge in the matches that they voluntarily stand themselves down.