Touch footballer’s 20-year ban ‘warranted’
A PRE-MEDITATED assault of a NSW Touch Football official has led to one Clarence Valley teenager being banned from the sport for 20 years.
The incident, which occurred toward the conclusion of a grand final in the Yamba Touch Football Association's summer competition in April, involved a 19-year-old player running 15 metres before launching his shoulder into the back of the unsuspecting senior official.
Merrick Skinner, who will now serve his sentence on the sidelines, was not present at his judiciary hearing chaired by NSW Touch general manager Dean Russell last week.
"The individual decided not to appear, we determined that the matter would go ahead and the hearing determined he was guilty of those offences," Russell said.
"In relation to a deliberate, premeditated attack of a referee from behind, he was found guilty. While there was no striking of the referee, no punches thrown, the player had run approximately 15 metres into the back of the referee.
"We are not going to have any player take that action with a referee. That should not take place in any sport."
Russell admitted that while the incident involving Skinner was a rare occurrence in the sport, it was not one without precedent.
"We have not seen this type of conduct in a while, but it would be unfair to say it has never happened in our sport," Russell said.
"I wouldn't say it is something that we have had major problems with."
That has not stopped the State body from imposing a strong penalty against the player, which according to Russell, was not about making a statement but was a "warranted punishment".
"It should not have to be a statement to the players that the referee is there to do a job, and ensure a fair and even contest," he said. "It is a very tough lesson for this player, but his actions gave us no choice."
The incident left the Yamba Touch Association in brief turmoil following the departure of long-standing president Tim Ryan, who was the referee at the centre of the altercation.
Ryan's long term dedication to touch football in Yamba was recognised by the community when he was awarded the Ernie Muller Award for Contribution to Sport in the Lower Clarence at the 2015 Clarence Valley Sports Awards.
"I made a snap decision at the time," Ryan told The Daily Examiner. "I got shoulder charged and nearly knocked base over apex and was basically told by three or four kids who I sponsored through their junior football that I wasn't wanted at the club.
"I finished the game and walked away from the club, and walked away from the sport... I felt betrayed."
"At the moment I am still staying away from it; my decision is not to be there as a committee person or an official."
It is understood, after disbanding for the regular winter season, Yamba Touch will be fit and firing for summer under the leadership of new president Kris Thomsen.
Ryan has continued with his junior rugby league commitments with Clarence Coast, where he intends to foster the next generation of referees in that sport.
The official is now calling for all sports to share judiciary findings in these serious incidents.
"We need to liaise across the board," he said. "Their reaction was who gives a s**t, we can go play another sport.
"If they do it in one sport, they will do it in another."