MAITLAND breakaway Mark Meafua hasreceived a 10-year ban for striking referee Niklas Gaal during the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Unionunder-19s grand final.
THE MOMENT: Mark Meafua about to be issued a red card by referee Nick Gaal. Picture: Stewart Hazell
The 18-year-old pleaded guiltyto lashing out at the promising whisteblowerin the second half of Maitland’s 28-3 loss to Wanderers at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday night.
BarTV Sports footage shows Meafu forcefully shove Gaal in the faceafter the refereeissues the player with a red card.
Meafua was arrested at his home in Rutherford on Saturday night and charged with common assault.He will face Maitland Local Court on October 4.
A remorsefulMeafua read out a three-page apology letter during a two-hour NHRU judiciary hearing on Wednesday night.
The judiciary, despite the player’s regret,deemed the act unacceptable and at the top endunder n Rugby Union guidelines.
As well as thesuspension for“physical abuse of an official”Meafua was found guilty of the red card offence–striking with his elbow–andissued a 10-match ban.
Both sentences are to be served concurrently. The red card incident was sparked by a dangerous lifting tackle on a Maitland player.
Gaal, who did not appear at the hearing, was not seriously hurt in the attack.
Meafua was set to receive the Jack Scott Medal, presented to the best and fairest player in the under-19s competition, but is now ineligible.
The ugly incident shocked and outraged the hundreds gathered at the ground and drew widespread condemnation on social media, but NHRU officials stressed that, whileMeafua’s actions were unacceptable, they had a duty of care to look after him during the process.
“We have not seen anything like this in our zone in 30 years,” NHRU general manager Andy Fairfull said.
“It is unacceptable to verbally or physically abuse a referee. Thesanctions show that if you undertake that behaviour, you will be out of the game for a serious amount of time.
“But, as well as ensuring Nik’s wellbeing, the union hasan obligation to provide Mark with the appropriate support.Within that 10 years, the referee’s association and Maitland club will work the young man to assist in some rehabilitation.”
Meafua has until close of business Friday to appeal against the sentence.