By TONY WHITE
TWO ugly all-in brawls, involving nearly 50 players, erupted into mayhem at Ellem Oval on Saturday during the North Coast ALF competition under-18 and first grade fixtures between Grafton Tigers and Sawtell Saints.
Both matches are certain to be the subject of further investigation by the NCAFL when they receive the official umpire reports.
Sawtell first grade coach Mick Britton said the Saints had written a 'strongly worded letter of complaint' to the NCAFL detailing 'several other incidents' in both spiteful games.
In the first grade match Sawtell's Dean Matthews was left concussed and taken to hospital for treatment.
"He's been ruled out of football for at least two weeks," Britton revealed.
And several other players including Tigers' Aaron Vasallo were left with deep facial bruising.
One spectator at the ground, who wished not to be named, said: "I've never seen anything like it. It was appaling, all-in brawls in both games."
Around 20 players became embroiled in a third-quarter melee in the Under-18 game that resulted in three players being reported by umpires.
Grafton's Joel Little and Dale Beaver, last season's NCAFL Best and Fairest player of the Year, and Tim Campbell from Sawtell, were reported.
Grafton have accepted an automatic two-week ban for Little but intend to take Beaver's case before the judiciary.
In the first grade match, won 132-52 by Sawtell, all hell broke loose with seven minutes remaining when Sawtell players reacted angrily to a high tackle by Grafton's Wayne 'Tank' Phillips on Matthews.
That was the catalyst to players charging in from all directions.
A massive human ruck traded blows, grappled, pushed and wrestled each other around the paddock.
At least 28 players from both sides were involved in the first grade brawl. Umpires took several minutes before calm was restored.
Two Grafton players - Phillips and Shaun Purton were sin binned in the wash up and Grafton's Jamie Seawald and Sawtell's Mark Innes were reported by umpires.
"Tank tackled the bloke high but it was accidental, he put his arms up straight away," Tigers coach Leith Basset claimed. "About five players from Sawtell charged at him.
"Our boys went in to help and it escalated from there.
"It just sort of went off. Just about the whole team from both sides got involved, much to the coach's disgust."
Basset claimed there weren't a lot of punches thrown but admitted 'here was a lot of carnage' after the dust-up.
"It was a rugged game. There was some cheap, rough shots, knees in the back and that sort of thing from both sides," he said. "There was frustration and it just blew apart.
"The control and discipline just descended towards the end.
"I certainly don't condone that sort of behaviour."
Tigers Under-18 coach Rick Hayman had similar sentiments.
"I don't condone behaviour of that nature. "It is unfortunate it (the brawl) happened," he said.
Britton, who said there were "un-needed cheap shots and spite" throughout first grade match, said he was "extremely disappointed with the whole situation".
He wants the league to ensure better protection for all players.