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Rugby league draws a line in the sand

RUBBED OUT: South Grafton Rebel Jay Melrose was suspended for the rest of the season. Photo: Debrah Novak
RUBBED OUT: South Grafton Rebel Jay Melrose was suspended for the rest of the season. Photo: Debrah Novak Debrah Novak

IT APPEARS the line in the sand has finally been drawn.

For too long, "thugby league" has copped a bad name for being a sport filled with brawlers and men of a low IQ looking for an excuse to legally knock the snot out of each other.

It is an image the NRL has fought hard to change for years, and if recent decisions made by local rugby league competitions across the east coast are anything to go by it seems to be catching on.

Misbehaving players are on the radar at local levels, with competition hierarchy slapping offending players with lengthy bans to ensure they are rubbed out of the game. Earlier this year South Grafton Rebels halfback Jay Melrose was suspended for the rest of the Group 2 season for threatening to kill a match official.

In 2012, Port Macqurie's Robert Inglis was suspended from rugby league for 20 years for "threatening to kill a match official (on the field of play) by cutting his throat".

Chief administrative officer Jim Anderson said Group 2 had taken steps towards cleaning up the competition.

"If players are going to act like that, our instructions are to get rid of them," Anderson said.

"We've got a good judicial process here in Group 2 and we don't want those types of players involved in our competition. Referees don't make these kind of things up. We're that short of refs nowadays and they don't want to cop the abuse anymore."

Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League also had their share of offenders, with a Casino reserve grader rubbed out for an alleged biting incident.

A Northern United reserve grader allegedly attacked a referee with an orange witch's hat as players and officials left the field. The player, who faced the NRRRL judiciary last night, was suspended for 15 years.

NRRRL president Brian Rix pointed the finger at how society had evolved to allow such behaviour.

"As I said last week it seems like it's a socially acceptable form of behaviour now," Rix said. "It's gotten out of hand.

"There were things happening the were bad but we could accept, but there's a few who are going too far.

"Some of the foul language might be socially acceptable in some circles these days but we aren't going to stand for it."

Problems aren't restricted to the Northern Rivers however, as Northern Districts Rugby League (Bundaberg, Qld) slapped South Kolan player Ikuna Manuofeta with a 10-year suspension for striking a referee last week.

South Kolan have until tonight to lodge their appeal, and have already forfeited one game in protest over how Manuofeta was treated at the judiciary.

They have since set their sights on winning this year's grand final.

Spectators aren't safe to make unsavoury comments in the stands either, with competition boards fully within their right to ban offenders from attending games.

Rix flagged heavier penalties for clubs in The Northern Star last week, with fines of up to $1000 applicable if a player, official or spectator is found guilty at the judiciary of dissent towards a referee.

If referees cop verbal abuse after the game, clubs risk losing two competition points and a second offence for individual players is likely to result in a six-week suspension.

Rix agreed the onus was on players to take responsibility for their actions.

Anderson went one step further, saying players who tried to appeal were "wasting their time".

Topics:  country rugby league group 2 jim anderson nrrrl referee abuse rugby league