STYLE: Merrick Rainbow-Skinner is cool and calm in attack 10m out from the try line.
STYLE: Merrick Rainbow-Skinner is cool and calm in attack 10m out from the try line.

Banned touch player says collision was an accident

TOUCH FOOTBALL: The teenager handed a 20-year touch football suspension said he was remorseful for running into the referee but that it was a "complete accident".

Clarence Valley 19-year-old Merrick Skinner said he was running with the football intending to draw his side back level with their grand final opponents when he accidentally collided with referee, Tim Ryan.

"When I ran into him it wasn't intentional," Skinner said. "Our opponents scored a try, there was a few minutes left on the clock, they led by only one point so I ran the ball back to halfway to do a quick restart.

"When they scored the referees swapped over, and that was when Tim was leaving the field. The onfield ref at the time gave me the all clear to tap the ball, so I tried to use my speed and go around the opposition.

"I was running to the outside, and at the last minute I looked up and saw Tim in front of me but it was too late, and I braced myself for the impact but he shouldn't have been on the field.

"It was an accident. At the time when he sent me off I was pretty upset and agitated, but I spoke to our manager and decided I needed to apologise to him after the game but he had left already."

At a judiciary hearing held in the Clarence Valley last week, Skinner was handed a 20-year suspension from NSW Touch Football as a result of the incident.

Skinner admitted that he thought the send off at the time was justified, as he did come into contact with a referee, but he said the 20-year suspension was too much.

"At first when I read it I thought it said 20 weeks," Skinner said. "Which I was happy to cop because I did collide with a referee. Intentional or not, you need to serve a punishment.

"But 20 years, people don't even get that for manslaughter."

Skinner said he was remorseful for what happened during the grand final, but had not sought out Ryan to deliver an apology yet.

"I would have apologised to him," he said. "In fact one of the other boys who verbally abused him that night did apologise.

"But I honestly thought he would want nothing to do with me. I thought he wouldn't want to listen to me.

"If I see him down town I will definitely approach him, talk to him about it and hopefully we will be able to put it behind us."

As for not being able to play touch football, Skinner admitted he was devastated especially having been selected for the Yamba touch representative team last year. But he will steer clear of the sport for now.



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