Parents shocked by youth rugby brawl

A brawl at a youth rugby match in Wanaka on Saturday - described by one parent as the worst he had seen - has prompted a formal complaint to the Otago Rugby Football Union (ORFU).

Details emerged yesterday about the incident, which occurred at a game between an Upper Clutha under-16 side and a Cromwell under-18 side at the Upper Clutha rugby grounds.

Upper Clutha Junior Rugby Club president Dean Millar was not at the game, but confirmed "there was an incident during the match of a serious nature" in which a player was injured and the club's changing rooms were subsequently damaged.

The club had notified the ORFU it would be lodging a complaint and some parents and spectators had been asked to fill out witness statements.

Mr Millar declined to give any further details as the club was still "gathering up information" as part of its own investigation.

Senior Constable Sean Hurley said Wanaka police had been called to the match and a 16-year-old male from Cromwell was dealt with for assault and referred to Youth Aid.

"The offender punched the victim [a Wanaka boy] in the face, knocking a tooth out," Snr Const Hurley said.

Cromwell Rugby Club president Jason Clark said he had no comment to make about the brawl at this stage.

Bob Robertson, a parent of one of the Wanaka players and a spectator at the game, said he had personally witnessed "aggressive play" from the Cromwell side in the last quarter.

"You could see the tension rising."

An "all-out brawl", involving about 15 players from both sides, broke out about five minutes before full time.

Mr Robertson said Cromwell players instigated the fight, but "Wanaka were hitting back".

"Parents came on at the end, including myself, to try and stop the fist-fighting that was going on ... Then the kids faced up to the adults and wanted to have a go at them, as well.

"At one point the [Wanaka] guy who lost his tooth was on the ground and he was being hit by three or four guys."

The Wanaka player got up to walk away when he was "king-hit in the side of the head".

Other players were bruised and bleeding as a result of the "uncontrolled aggression", which spurred an off-duty police officer watching the game to phone police. Mr Robertson understood Cromwell players then kicked holes in the walls of the changing rooms at the grounds.

"I've never seen anything like it and I've never seen such a cavalier attitude by another set of players.

"It was the worst I've ever seen and worst I'd ever want to see.

"When a scene like this happens there should be a lot of questions asked."

He said there had been other occasions where young Cromwell sides had instigated fights at rugby games during the past few years.

"Cromwell rugby has an issue and they need to take a hard look at what messages they're giving these boys."

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