A moment of madness
By Adam Hicks
A MOMENT of madness from Jeff Nilon has tarnished his 30 years of contribution to Far North Coast soccer. Nilon has come forward and admitted he was the spectator that sprayed referee Luke Mackney with beer after Italo-Stars lost the FNC grand final 1-0 to Richmond Rovers. During the match Stars had two players red-carded while Rovers were awarded a penalty kick which, in the wash-up, helped decide the match. "Before I even left the ground I knew I was in the wrong," he said. "He's not a bad young fella, he didn't need that. I'm not out to say I didn't do it. "I have no defence except I've been in the game for so long and on that night passions overflowed." Football FNC last week handed Nilon a five-year ban for his actions. Three Stars' players were also handed stiff bans, while the club lost the right to host premier division home games in 2008, for incident in which Mackney was verbally abused and had a beer can thrown at him. Nilon said he wanted to offer a belated congratulations to Rovers on their premiership and to make amends for any damage he caused. "They already struggle to get referees and that sort of thing is not going to encourage new ones," Nilon said. "That's why I rang Luke, to apologise, and I told him it wasn't personal, not an attack on him. I told him to keep his head up and keep refereeing, we need him in the game." Nilon has been involved with local soccer since he ran out for the old Eastwood, now Workers, club as a five-year-old. He stayed with the club for 20 years and played premier division through the 1980s before moving to the Stars in the 1990s as a player and junior coach. "This is something I've never done before," he said. "I'll support the team and encourage them and shout like everyone else. "It's not like I've just come along and watched one game and gone silly ... I've been involved for 30 years." So why, after a life-time of positive input would he wash it away with an angry spray of beer foam? "That's a good question," Nilon said. "It was a brain snap. It was a big year for the Stars. "They put in the hard work all year, and when it comes down to one game and a couple of decisions, it sparked a couple of emotions that wouldn't normally come out. "It was just a rush of blood." Nilon said he was sorry for his actions. "A lot of people are going to say, 'What's he doing? He deserves what he got'," Nilon said. "I'm not trying to save face for myself. I'm not after brownie points. You've got to take your medicine. "Still the actions of a few shouldn't damage the whole club. Stars have been portrayed as a really bad club which they aren't, they are family orientated. "The home games are where they can make a few dollars selling drinks and food. They shouldn't be held responsible. We were all adults and should know better. "It's up to individuals how they react." Nilon is still considering if he will appeal against the ban at Tuesday's hearing.