Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Teen league final ends in disgrace

The referee and Auckland Rugby League officials decided the atmosphere was too charged to continue, and the match was called off. Photo / Getty Images
The referee and Auckland Rugby League officials decided the atmosphere was too charged to continue, and the match was called off. Photo / Getty Images

Teenagers in a league grand final have seen their season end in disgrace after the game was called off following abuse from spectators.

The match between Mount Albert Gold and Howick teams in the Auckland Under 16/17 restricted grade was abandoned with about 10 minutes remaining.

It comes amid growing efforts to combat poor behaviour on the sidelines of club sport, with league, rugby and football attempting to emphasise fair play, especially in junior grades.

There have been several serious incidents involving league referees in Auckland this season, with Sport Auckland saying "there is a long way to go" to change such behaviour.

Mt Albert were leading 18-6 on Sunday when a Howick player reportedly reacted to abuse from the sideline. Players and spectators from both teams were then involved in a melee, although no punches were thrown.

However, the referee and Auckland Rugby League officials decided the atmosphere was too charged to continue, and the match was called off.

Auckland Rugby League chief operating officer Pat Carthy said both teams appeared before an independent judicial panel on Monday night, and were found to be equally at fault.

All the players listed on the team card were placed on good behaviour bonds of $500 until May 1 next year, and the final was declared null and void and not to be replayed.

Gary Whittle, chair of the judicial panel, said a Howick player had apparently taken exception to abuse and "had words" with a spectator, before events spiralled out of control.

"Some of the players started to react - a bit of push and shove - then spectators came on the field and all the players got involved.

"The sad thing was it was for the championship. It was for the grand final, so none of those teams now win the championship."

No spectators had been disciplined as it was difficult to identify them.

Mount Albert Lions Rugby League president Jason Sutton said the club was appealing the judiciary decision.

Howick club chairman Bruce Campbell said he saw the incident and was adamant no spectators went on to the field. He said players from both teams were not to blame for the incident, and did well not to react more strongly. "But there are always a few idiots out there that feel like it's okay to abuse a 16-year-old kid on a park. It's ridiculous, really."

Auckland Rugby League Referees' Association secretary Kris Taunt said he was aware of the incident but the association's constitution meant he could not comment to media.

- NZ Herald

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