Editorial: Give life bans for violent players

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What is going on with some of our rugby players?

News this week that there were two assaults on Bay rugby players on the field, as well as other incidents this season, is concerning and should be ringing alarm bells among the game's officials.

Former Bay of Plenty Steamers hooker Simon Chisholm was knocked out from a king hit during a premier-grade match last Saturday. The Te Puke Sports player was hit with so much force during the game against Te Puna that he spent two nights in Tauranga Hospital with severe concussion. A police complaint has been made.

Chisholm's father and former top rugby referee Hugh Chisholm has seen enough from the sidelines this season to be alarmed by the amount of foul play and took his complaints to a Bay referees meeting more than three weeks ago. He rightly describes on-field violence as "disgusting". Other officials are concerned.

But Simon Chisholm wasn't the only assault victim last Saturday.

Te Puke Sports colts flanker Luke Keenleyside ended up with a broken jaw when he tried to break up a sideline fracas at Tauranga Domain.

Rugby is a physical game and in my view that is part of its charm. Anyone who plays should expect their fair share of knocks and bruises. But there's a world of difference between a gutsy tackle and punching someone.

There have, of course, been other violent incidents in rugby.

Recent examples include:

Children playing in an under-11s rugby match witnessing punches being thrown between coaches and parents after an alleged racial slur against the referee at Porirua late last month.

A man who knocked a rugby coach unconscious at a Rotorua game was given community work last November.

And last month, it emerged that Blues lock Filo Paulo will miss the rest of the Super 15 rugby season after being banned for punching Tom Donnelly.

The case of Paulo is of even more concern because of the high level he was playing at.

It needs to be remembered that most Bay rugby players behave themselves and it is only a few that are ruining it for the rest and tarnishing the game's image.

But any case of violence on or around the sports field is a disgrace and sets a bad example to younger players.

It is timely for rugby officials to look at how they are managing the problem.

Penalties should at least be reviewed. In my view, anyone who assaults another player on the field should be banned for life. No second chances.

Sports violence makes me wonder about the maturity and self-control these offending players have.

These brutes might think they're tough but they're just pathetic. Rugby is a game involving a ball. If they want to fight they should try boxing.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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