Cook Islands Rugby League Referees Association wants the player who “manhandled” a referee at the Nines tournament last month to be stood down.
Association’s acting chairman Sean Willis said they would only return to officiate the weekly Raro Cars competition if Cook Islands Rugby League Association take some action against the player.
The referees association filed a complaint against an Avatiu Eels player alleging he hurled physical and verbal abuse at one of their members after the Nines final’s match on January 4.
The rugby league body dismissed the case, saying that the matter should have been dealt with on the day of the incident, as per the League Nines Manual, and that there was a lack of evidence by supporting officials.
Cook Islands Rugby League had warned the player involved in the incident.
But referee association’s Sean Willis is not pleased with the response.
“A match official was manhandled, it’s not permitted anywhere. An assault is assault. There shouldn’t be any time frame to deal with such cases, and this is bulls*** that a referee or an official has to be a witness,” Willis said.
He said the incident was witnessed by three Arorangi Bears players.
“We filed our incident report on Monday, January 6 and we got a reply from Cook Islands Rugby League on Wednesday, February 5 basically outlining they have decided to speak to the chairman of the judiciary from last year and the issue should have been sorted out on the day of the Nines,” Willis said.
“We invited the competition coordinator Tai Nelio and chairman of rugby league Charles Carlson at referees debriefing after the Nines at the Rose Garden where we planned to raise this issue but they didn’t turn up.
“I think it’s just a side step from them to brush this under the mat.”
Willis said they had a conference call with their members on Thursday last week and that an unanimous decision was made not to officiate a game until the matter was solved.
He said they advised the national body that they were not available to officiate any matches, suggesting the player involved should be stood down until the issue is resolved.
Willis said the Cook Islands Rugby League acknowledged their letter but did not take any action on their request.
Charles Carlson, the chairman of the rugby league association, yesterday said they were “very disappointed with the referees’ decision to boycott the game at such a very short notice prior to kicking off of the season”.
He thanked and acknowledged those officials who stepped up to fill the gap to ensure the round one games on Saturday continue as planned.
“What the refs did is really irresponsible taking the matter into their hands and dictated whether the game be played or not. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen that way, CIRL runs the national game and the game is bigger than that,” Carlson said.
“Does this mean when they are not happy with a decision given by CIRL they will boycott the game again and this is not the first time they threaten CIRL so it is really childish if you ask me.
“This matter be tabled and discussed at our CIRL meeting (today) and will see what actions needs to be taken in response the refs boycotting the game.”
Sean Willis said their action was not a threat.
“To me that wasn’t a threat, it was common sense – stand one player down and the competition goes ahead. I don’t think there is anything wrong with standing the player down, one player for the benefit of the game,” he said.
“This happened last year and a player was stood down for four games but this year they just gave a verbal warning.
“I don’t think we were being unfair in what we wanted and end of the day – they said league must be the winner, is it? What will happen next week when all the other grades start?
“We referees are old but we come back because we want to contribute to the game and all we get is abuse. There are a lot of other issues.”
Meanwhile former champions Tupapa Panthers thumped Titikaveka Bulldogs 52-26 while Avatiu Eels defeated Arorangi Bears 26-23 in a tense and exciting match.