Watch your mouth
By ADRIAN MILLER
'WATCH your mouth' is the warning, but despite the best efforts of Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League officials it's a caution not getting through to the necessary people ? the players.
Local league officials are urging players to control their verbal outbursts after a spate of abuse directed at referees has led to a number of players being suspended in the early part of the season.
And the most disappointing aspect, according to Retravision Northern League judiciary chairman Wilson Cregan, is that all the players suspended have been from the Under-18 comp.
"It's one of the main issues concerning us at the moment," Cregan said.
"There's been too much abuse of referees and match officials and it's not going to be tolerated."
Three Under-18 players have been suspended in the past month for a total of 10 games plus a further 10 matches in suspended sentences, so it's clear the judiciary isn't issuing idle threats.
"We're going to take a fairly hard stance because the message is not getting out to players and coaches," he said.
"They have to let officials do their job.
"The group management committee has made the decision to clamp down on this behaviour because it is a blight on game.
"We've improved in a lot of areas but this is one area which is simply not good enough.
"Anyone who appears before us on a language or abuse charge will be dealt with very harshly and the Under-18s are a good example of that."
While the language is a barrier yet to be overcome, Cregan said the players had been behaving themselves in every other facet of the game.
"Apart from the abuse we've been quite pleased with the behaviour of the players," he said.
Kyogle's Mark Cox became the first first-grade player to be sent from the field this season when marched for a high tackle last Sunday against Casino.
Charged with making contact to the head or neck, Cox pleaded guilty and was suspended for two weeks, with a further two-match suspended sentence.
Cregan said the constant abuse was not only costing players game time, but turning off referees.
"It's not an easy task and it's probably costing us officials," he said. "There's not an over-supply of high- standard referees and touch judges."
Cregan said the abuse had become so bad during one Under-18 match the official nearly called the game off. "The referee feared for his safety because the abuse crossed the line," he said.