Footbrawl furore: Weekend league marred by violence
NORTH Coast rugby league was reduced to brawls and biff across both NRRRL or Group 2 competitions at the weekend.
At Frank McGuren Field the Grafton Ghosts and Nambucca Heads Roosters game was punctuated by on-field fights, send-offs and fan brawls, while at Lismore the Lower Clarence Magpies' reserve grade side played a match in between brawls against Northern United.
The Grafton Ghosts' match against the Nambucca Heads Roosters was bookended by incidents with players and fans all involved in fighting at different stages.
In the 17th minute at Frank McGuren Field, Roosters halfback Edgar Cowell was sent from the field for striking a prone opponent. On his way off the field the playmaker became embroiled in a conflict with fans on the sidelines.
Fans of both sides faced off before security was called to break it up and move the crowd on.
Later in the match the sides became involved in an on-field brawl where a player from each side was sent to the sin bin for landing punches on their opponent. A bloody Kade Welsh did not return to the field for Nambucca after his 10 minutes in the bin were finished, due to a cut above his eye.
Grafton Ghosts manager Joe Kinnane said he was disgusted by the actions of players on the field and asked if this is what the modern game had become.
"This is deadset going back to the way they played in the 1970s and it seems to be the same issue every week, not just this week," he said.
"No way in the world are you bloody happy with what was happening yesterday, it was downright thuggery.
"There was a lot of unsavoury incidents in the game. [The Roosters] weren't even trying to play football out there on the field.
"Lots of ex-players have remarked to me that it is going back 30 years the way they play in Group 2. I don't know who is to blame, whether it is the association, the referees or the damn players who think it is all right to play like that."
Ghosts veteran halfback Ryan Farrell said it did not feel like a football match on the field.
"It wasn't really a game of football it was a game of who can knock their opponents' blocks off," he said.
"I don't think anyone enjoys all the fighting on the field. I surely don't enjoy it."
But the Ghosts and Roosters game was not the only one to be marred with controversy at the weekend.
Witnesses reported, while not as heavy as the Group 2 match, the second half of the reserve-grade game between Lower Clarence Magpies and Northern United disintegrated into spurts of violence between footballing action, with multiple players sent to the sin bin.
Mikee Randall, coach of the Magpies' reserve-grade side, refused to comment on the on-field fighting when contacted.
But Magpies president and second grade player Steve Austine admitted to the fighting in the second half.
"We were leading 28-6 just after half-time when we had a player sinbinned for fighting when we were in possession," he said.
"There was penalty after penalty. It was mainly our fault for getting dragged into a grubby game."
Group 2 administrator Warren Gilkinson said no action could be taken against the teams involved in Sunday's brawl at Frank McGuren Field until an official report was filed.
"Fighting on the field is always unacceptable in football," he said. "The incident will remain under review pending an official report to be filed by either team."