A schoolboy rugby player in Australia has received a 10-year ban for striking a referee during the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union U19s Grand Final this past weekend.
Video footage caught 18-year-old Maitland Blacks loose forward Mark Meafua striking Niklas Gaal, 19, in the face with an open hand during Maitland’s 28-3 loss to the Newcastle Wanderers in the NSW Hunter region on Saturday night.
Gaal was about to issue Meafua with a red card before he was struck.
During a two-hour judiciary hearing on Wednesday night, Meafua pleaded guilty to the incident. Even though he displayed clear regret, the Judiciary deemed his actions unacceptable. Meafua was also found guilty of the red card offence – striking with his elbow – and he received a 10-match ban for that offence.
Meafua is believed to have been in line to have been awarded the Jack Scott Medal, given to the best and fairest player in the U19s competition, prior to these incidents.
“We have not seen anything like this in our zone in 30 years,” NHRU general manager Andy Fairfull told Stuff.
“It is unacceptable to verbally or physically abuse a referee. The sanctions show that if you undertake that behaviour, you will be out of the game for a serious amount of time.
“But, as well as ensuring Nik’s well-being, the union has an obligation to provide Mark with the appropriate support.
“Within that 10 years, the referees’ association and Maitland club will work the young man to assist in some rehabilitation.”
Meafua has until Friday to appeal against his sentence.