Queensland Rugby League bosses say a life ban for a junior player accused of stomping on a rival's head is a justified as they backed up a raft of punishments following a wild grand final day in September.
A total of 56 players were banned for one year and a 17-year-old Waterford player was banned for life after allegedly kicking the head of a Redcliffe opponent during the Greater Brisbane Junior Rugby League's grand final day at Wacol, in Brisbane's west, last month.
Four relatives the Waterford player suspended have also been asked to appear before a special disciplinary tribunal next week.
Players fight during the Under-18s Cup match between Northern Suburbs Tigers and Brothers. Photo: David Nielsen, The Queensland Times
The players' father, two brothers and a cousin have all been requested to attend a hearing by the GBJRL after they failed to front a hearing last Thursday.
The incident has called into question the very concept of finals for the juniors and is another blow for a game trying to adopt a more professional and family friendly approach right down to its grassroots level.
Players from Wests Centenary and St Brendans have been subject to the bans after their fiery Under 15 decider, along with Waterford who played Redcliffe in the Under 18s grand final.
The penalties, many of which will be appealed, have been given the unequivocal backing by GBJRL chief executive Shane McNally, who said there was no excuse for the violence and parents and clubs must also share a hefty portion of the responsibility.
He also offered no apologies for the life ban of the 17-year-old, who will never take to a football field again unless an appeal overturns the decision.
“Well he did a full-blooded kick to the head on a player on the ground. I think a life ban is reasonable. I wasn't on the tribunal but in my personal opinion that's a fair ban,” McNally said.
“Mind you, all these penalties are up for appeal. I think most of them are appealing to the South East Division. But that's how strong we've got to be.
“We have to exclude people from what they supposedly like doing. We've got to send a message out that if people want to behave like that then they are going to be out of the game.”
QRL chief executive Rob Moore said the clubs had to take responsibility for the actions of not only their players but their volunteers, with a number of Leaguesafe officers, who run water and help injured players, under the spotlight for their role in the series of brawls during the Under 15 and Under 18 deciders.
He also said parents needed to take a step back and stop treating suburban league games as if their children are playing for the same stakes as State of Origins or NRL deciders.
“It's something that's been talked about for years and years. There's a million psychologists out there who'd have views on parents living their life through their children and probably suspect there parents didn't achieve a lot on the sporting field and they believe their children will,” Moore said.
“They take it to heart and we have to educate parents that it's not the be all and end all. The benefits for the kids are in going to the games and learning skills, and not in winning premierships.
“The onus is on the clubs. The clubs have got to educate their people and supporters that this behaviour is unacceptable.”
McNally said banning grand finals was one concept in discussion but no decision had been reached.
“We're looking at different options that we might pursue to try and reduce the incidents. I was asked what sort of thing were we looking at – and that's one answer that's been floated. But there's been no decisions or discussions made on that yet,” he said.
He also said Redcliffe players displayed good conduct on the day and the club wasn't hit with any suspensions.
“Redcliffe didn't try and get involved in the melee. They tried to move away and their only focus was their player on the ground.
“My understanding is the Redcliffe player put his hand out to shake hands, the Waterford player pushed him in the chest and commenced throwing punches. Unprovoked.
“So that's the evidence that came from the Chairman of JRL who was a metre away from it. That's pretty good evidence I think.”
McNally said the GBJRL had staged 43 grand finals this year and only had two incidents.