Lennox Head at Witt's end
EMBATTLED Lennox Head Rugby Union premiership captain Harry Witt has finally drawn consolation from a six-month suspension imposed after a bitter clash in the last preliminary match of the Far North Coast Rugby Union season.
The former Far North Coast and consistent NSW Country age representative has fought the severity of the penalty and the harsh wording of an alleged trampling charge since the match against Lismore City in August.
The fight to clear his previously unblemished record and reduce the length of suspension has taken him through appeal hearings with the Far North Coast and NSW Country judiciary committees without success before partially being upheld by the NSW Rugby Administration and Appeals Board last week.
Its decision to downgrade the ‘intentional and malicious’ wording of the original charge to ‘reckless’ reduced the previous suspension period from March 31 to December 31.
Witt was in Sydney with Ballina solicitor Brendan Bourke to hear the outcome of his last-ditch fight.
Although heartened by the outcome, Witt admitted yesterday he was ‘still disappointed and emotionally shattered’ by what he said had been a ‘purely accidental incident’.
The match against Lismore City degenerated into a spiteful clash which saw four yellow cards and three red cards issued, at one stage reducing the Lennox Trojans team to 12 players before half-time.
Ironically Lennox Head went on to win the game 14-6 to move into third place for the finals, and consequently beat Lismore in the grand final to claim their second successive premiership without Witt at the helm.
That, according to Witt, was the cruellest penalty from the charge.
“I’ll never forget that day,” Witt said yesterday.
“I’ve been playing rugby long enough to know what intentional means, and my record clearly speaks for that. There is no way I deserved the severity of that charge, and a lot of people know it.”
Lennox Head club president Barry Kiddle reflected on Witt’s sentiments after the reduction in his suspension was handed down.
“We as a club pushed ahead with it because video evidence clearly showed ‘intentional and malicious’ were the wrong words on the day,” Kiddle said.
“It’s been a bitter pill for Harry to swallow, but as a club Lennox showed amazing fortitude to push through the finals and win its second successive grand final without him – for him.
“But it wasn’t just the premiership, he’s been denied his chance at the Byron Bay Sevens and other tournaments on the Gold Coast.
“Hopefully he can now get back on with his rugby preparations and take over from where he left off.”
For Witt, that preparation starts immediately.
“If there was a game on New Year’s Day I would play in it, but I’ll certainly be putting my hand up now for the Far North Coast trials and push for country selection,” he said.
Witt also thanked local solicitor Chris Smith who helped with the case and the Lennox club for their support.