Refs put the heat on league to cite Currie
By TONY WHITE & STEVE SPINKS
THE Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) Referees' Association has officially requested Lower Clarence rugby league player Jack Currie be cited.
At Maclean Showground on Sunday Currie punched referee Vaughn Steel three times in the final minutes of the reserve grade match against Murwillumbah.
Currie had just been sent from the field for using an elbow in a tackle on a Murwillumbah player.
Currie was yesterday charged by the NRRRL with striking in relation to the send off and is expected to appear before the NRRRL judiciary on Thursday night.
The issue surrounding the attack on Steel will be dealt with separately.
NRRRL secretary Doug Harrison confirmed the Referees' Association had requested Currie be cited for punching Steel.
A referee's match report was tabled with Harrison late yesterday. Its contents were not available for publication.
"It was a general report with a separate, precise and to-the-point document dealing with the other (punching) incident," Harrison said.
However, Harrison confirmed the report stated: "The referee was struck three times by player Currie."
"Management will now get together and go through the reports and come to a decision how we will deal with the matter," Harrison added.
"The matter will be discussed on its merits and a decision made if the player (Currie) has a case to answer. It is a separate issue from his send-off and dealt with separately."
Harrison said he was hopeful of management coming to a decision as quickly as possible, possibly mid-week.
Meanwhile, Steel, the Lennox Head-based referee, has vowed to continue officiating the game he loves despite Sunday's furore.
"It (the assault) certainly hasn't put me off refereeing," the 42-year-old said yesterday.
"I love doing that (refereeing) so it won't put me off."
The incident came as a shock to the whistle-blower who said there hadn't been any undue aggression during the match.
"It definitely caught me by surprise," he said.
"I did identify the player as one to keep an eye on and to talk to through the game to keep him settled.
"I thought I had a good rapport with him leading up to the incident."
As Currie let fly, players quickly intervened.
"I'm very thankful for all the players from both sides who came to my aid," Steel said.
"Some shielded me and others dragged him away."
Steel was cleared of serious injury by medical staff yesterday morning.
"I've got a bit of bruising to the side of my head. It's nothing serious," he said.
"It's just one of those things, but I enjoy what I do so I'll keep going."
Steel, who works as a plumber, is a long-time resident of Lennox Head and has played both league and soccer for the seaside village. He started refereeing league in 2000.
NRRRL president Robin Harley said he would be comfortable if Currie received a lifetime ban for the attack.
"There's a precedent there," Harley said. "Some years ago there was a player given a life sentence for an attack on a referee.
"He eventually appealed to the Queen and it was reduced to five years. I'd be comfortable with that (a life sentence)."
Harley also remembered that a player as recently as the 1990s had been banned for 18 months for touching a referee during a match.
"We have to be careful to manage these situations and get the word out that this type of behav- iour is unacceptable."