Sideline brawl at kids' rugby match

A sideline brawl involving parents at a Martinborough under-11 rugby game on Saturday has sparked emergency meetings and a Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union investigation.

Officials abandoned the game after the violence erupted.

Wairarapa Bush Rugby Union chairman Paora Ammunson said the "violent confrontation" had erupted among spectators at a JAB match on Saturday between Martinborough and Marist sides at the grounds of the South Wairarapa club.

Mr Ammunson was unaware of the extent of any injuries inflicted during the sideline fighting, which had involved some players' parents and according to initial reports was sparked during "a disagreement about something that happened on the field", he said.

The board had ordered an investigation and representatives from the two relevant clubs were to report on the incident at a meeting tonight.

"There will be a formal presentation of each club's version of what has happened," Mr Ammunson said.

"At the core of this incident were spectators who were parents. People have got carried away. There was violence and a confrontation. This was parents behaving badly."

Mr Ammunson said the violence did not involve junior players, team coaches or match officials, who abandoned the game in the wake of the brawl.

"There were no coaches, match officials or children involved in the incident - as soon as it erupted the two coaches pulled their players aside. But we are really disappointed the children have been exposed to something like this."

He said there were policies regarding sideline behaviour and he expected sanctions to be imposed where deserved that could include the handing down of bans from match grounds.

"Both clubs have given assurances there will be implications for the people involved.

"I would expect that anybody involved in violence at a rugby ground would be facing a ban as a possible punishment. The individual clubs will need to make those decisions."

Mr Ammunson was aware of a similar but unrelated incident at an under-10 match last year between Martinborough and Pioneer.

He was to last night discuss the incident and the union's constitutional powers and obligations with WBRFU chief executive Tony Hargood and Junior Rugby chairman Doug Bracewell, he said.

"The most important thing is that families and children feel comfortable and safe and have a great time at sport. This is a tragedy really that children were exposed to this sort of thing and we don't want this to happen ever again."

He said board members had last week talked about holding a review of "club culture, and what we can do to help set a high standard for clubs to be safe, fun and comfortable". A review had been prompted in the wake of an incident involving Wairarapa rugby star and Pioneer Rugby Club player Sean Robinson, 19, who was left with a serious head injury after being allegedly assaulted during a late night incident involving a clubmate.

"The incident with Sean made our review a matter of priority - we want clubs to have a really good and positive culture, not a place where these kinds of things happen."

- By Nathan Crombie of the Wairarapa Times-Age

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