A shadow has been cast over the 2013 opening of the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) season as accusations of racial vilification during a reserves match spread through the league.
Yesterday another local media outlet published excerpts of a Facebook exchange that accused a Mullumbimby Giants players of using racist taunts against indigenous Ballina Seagulls players at the end of last Sunday’s game at Les Donnelly Field in Mullumbimby.
It was also reported that Giants players left the field ‘with minutes on the clock’ and that all but one refused to shake hands with their Ballina counterparts, who easily won the match.
Subsequently a formal complaint has been made to the NRRRL about the behaviour of some of the Mullum Giants players.
President of the NRRRL Brian Rix says that these types of accusations are taken very seriously by the league and will be thoroughly investigated.
Mr Rix says letters have been sent to the two clubs in regard to the accusations.
‘We have sent a letter of complaint to Mullumbimby and asked for a reply,’ he said. ‘We have also sent a letter to Ballina asking for an explanation.’
Mr Rix says that NRRRL management has asked both clubs to respond by Thursday. ‘We have judiciary meetings on Wednesdays but we have the managers’ meeting on Monday. We need to get a response soon so we can assess it.’
Mr Rix says that though the NRRRL certainly does not condone any of the type of behaviour laid out in the accusations, there is no set penalty for a team or club found guilty in this situation. He said that they would know more after Monday night.
Echonetdaily was unable to attend the weekend match, owing to conflicting schedules, but last night spoke to an Indigenous player from another Ballina team who was watching the match at the time.
He said he saw Mullum walk off the ground on Sunday, but he did not himself hear any racial slurs or hear any spoken about in the dressing room.
‘We usually get on well with the Mullum side,’ said the man, who preferred to remain nameless. ‘There was a bit of rough play during the reserves and Mullum walked off, but that happens. It happens a lot; it’s not that unusual.’
The man admits that he wasn’t listening carefully to the after game talk, but says that the Ballina reserves team relaxed and watched the A Grade match like any other week and didn’t appear to be overly distressed by the events of the afternoon.
‘We all just sat around watching the game like we always do.’
Brian Rix says he is interested in getting to the bottom of the accusations and that the NRRRL will not hesitate to take action if the information received warrants it.
‘My feeling is to make sure we get reliable and relevant evidence first, and then we assess the evidence rather than taking things for granted or assuming anything.’