Rugby blows whistle on this suspension

AN Iluka rugby union player will sidestep an 18-month ban from the sport if he joins the ranks of those he once villified as a player.

Cossacks No 8 Matt Duncombe was banned until 2011 after being found guilty of dissent by the Far North Coast judiciary recently but he will be available to play next season if he becomes an accredited referee and makes himself available to officiate in senior games.

With the FNC referee ranks always thin, the move is sure to be welcomed by the men in the middle.

“The player had priors for dissent and was looking at being banned until 2011,” FNC administrator officer Wayne Millane said.

“If he undertakes the foundation course (referees) and makes himself actively available for senior games he will be right to play in 2010.”

Iluka club president Peter Duncombe, Matt's father, said the judiciary's innovative move would help keep his 26-year-old son in the game.

“He was prepared to walk away from it all because he thought he was copping the rough end of the stick,” Duncombe said.

“He knows he overstepped the mark a few times but I have know doubt he will enjoy the refereeing. He is going to do his coaching ticket as well as the ref ticket and will stick with it now.”

Duncombe said his son's love of the sport was genuine, even if he struggled to control his emotions on the paddock.

“I don't have any excuses for him and sometimes I'm embarrassed by the things he says or does,” the Iluka president said.

“I think deep down he probably recognises he had some ability which he never pursued and that probably frustrates him. He also spends a lot of time and money on the sport.

“He's in the process of buying his own trawler. To play, he and some of the other boys have to tie the boat up for a night and then drive from Tweed Heads to the game.

“So if he believes his side is copping a hard time from the ref he struggles to hold it in.”

Duncombe said the incident for which his son was suspended occurred during the third match between Iluka and cross-river rivals Yamba.

The judiciary decision was the idea of local solicitors Clayton James and Eoin Johnston.

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