Long bans for abusing ref
TWO Grafton Rhinos Under-18 rugby league players have been handed long suspensions for striking opponents and abusing a referee.
One was given a 14-match ban and the other a 10-match ban by the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League judiciary.
The Rhinos had intended contesting the striking and misconduct charges at a judiciary hearing in Lismore tonight but decided against it after the cases were adjourned last week.
A Casino Cougars Under-18 player will fight a 14-match match ban from when he was sent off in the same game.
The 14-match ban effectively rules out the Grafton Rhinos play-er for most of next season with the NRRRL a 16-round competition.
NRRRL president Brian Rix said the clubs could face further penalties as a result of the abuse towards the referee in the 16th-round clash at Queen Elizabeth Park, Casino.
"The fact that the game had to be called off early isn't a good look for rugby league," Rix said.
"We'll talk to both clubs regarding the incident and further disciplinary action could be taken."
Rhinos president Tony Stackhouse was unavailable for comment yesterday on why the club had done a backflip on contesting the charges.
Meanwhile, Ballina Seagulls first-grade lock Dan Gibson has escaped suspension after he was sent off in his side's 20-12 win over Marist Brothers in the elimination semi-final at Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina, on Saturday.
Gibson was sent off late in the game for his part in a brawl and received a low grading at the judiciary assessment on Monday.
Rix said Gibson had received a 50% reduction because he had a clean record for more than five years but would face six weeks on the sideline if sent off again.
Ballina coach Greg Barnes is thrilled to have Gibson available, with the Seagulls welcoming back props Greg Ryan and Dean French for the minor semi-final against Byron Bay on Saturday.
He expects Gibson to play the same in-your-face style of football.
"He's a very valued player and I would be disappointed if he changed the way he plays," Barnes said.
"He was man of the match last week and not much worries him."
NRRRL SEMI-FINALS THIS WEEKEND
MINOR SEMI-FINALS AT BYRON BAY ON SATURDAY:
First grade: Byron Bay v Ballina
Reserve grade: Murwillumbah v Northern United
Under-18s: Ballina v Marist Brothers
MAJOR SEMI-FINALS AT MURWILLUMBAH ON SUNDAY:
First grade: Murwillumbah v Grafton Ghosts
Reserve grade: Grafton Ghosts v Mullumbimby
Under-18s: Mullumbimby v Grafton Ghosts