Sideline Champs: 'Supporters started punching my team'

By Susan Edmunds

Angela Fahey's son, left, was a member of the Auckland Grammar rugby team that was involved in an on-field brawl with De La Salle last year. Photo / Neville Marriner
Angela Fahey's son, left, was a member of the Auckland Grammar rugby team that was involved in an on-field brawl with De La Salle last year. Photo / Neville Marriner

Angela Fahey can vividly remember the moment she watched her son's rugby match turn into an all-out brawl.

It was almost a year ago, and the 16-year-old was playing at loosehead prop for Auckland Grammar. She had his little brother, 9, on the sidelines, with a group of four of his friends.

Her son was going into a ruck in the secondary schools rugby final, being played at Tamaki College, when a player for the De La Salle College opposition started throwing hook punches at him. The referee blew the whistle and the game came to an early end.

Her son remembers that as the straw that broke the camel's back in what was already a tense match. "The other team and the team that had played before, and all their supporters, came on and started punching all the members of my team. Half of them wanted a piece of me."

He said the fight had been building for a while. Auckland Grammar had been always just ahead on the scoreboard and some of De La Salle's supporters thought the referee was being too hard on their players.

"They were twice our size but they couldn't beat us. We were ahead by one point."

They struggled to get away to the safe area where their coaches were standing, all the while being punched by the opposition.

"The coaches were saying 'get out of there, get over here' ... we didn't know what happened to the referee and the linesmen, we didn't know they were getting beaten up."

The 17-year-old referee was punched in the face.

Fahey said the supporters then seemed to turn on each other.

"The scariest thing was that they were fighting amongst themselves, punching each other and coming towards us. My girlfriend, who had little kids with her, called 111. The police were there within minutes."

The spectators were yelling abuse before the fight even broke out: "How will kids ever learn that this behaviour is not acceptable? And the parents came on as well, what was that about?"

Don Crawford, Auckland Rugby Referees' Association chairman, said the spectator responsible for punching the referee last year had never been found, but two De La Salle players were banned.

Auckland Rugby is soon to make an announcement about the school's efforts to stop such violence repeating, and Crawford said the school's principal had worked tirelessly on it.

But still it goes on: Just yesterday, at a game in Tauranga, an opposition player told Fahey's son he was going to get smashed. "It only happens if they lose," he said.

If you see remarkable behaviour on the sidelines this winter - good or bad - please get in touch at news@hos.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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