A LINESMAN is still recovering after being knocked unconscious during a New England rugby union match at Bingara on Saturday.
The alleged assault occurred early in the second half after a Gwydir River Rats player apparently took offence at being sent from the field.
It is understood the player first verbalised his frustration at being yellow-carded (sin-binned for 10 minutes) to linesman Bernie O’Shannessy who reported the incident to the match referee.
The player was reportedly then shown a red card (sent off).
A short time later the alleged offender struck Mr O’Shannessy who is understood to have been left unconscious for about 30 seconds.
Police attended Bingara Oval following the assault.
The Gwydir club said the player in question was asked to leave the grounds.
Play was stopped while an ambulance was called and Mr O’Shannessy was taken to Bingara hospital.
Tamworth Pirates third grade coach Paul Newall said he had been associated with rugby since 1979 and had never seen anything like it before.
He said the player had an argument with the referee after he was red-carded and he then walked around the referee and another player and punched Mr O’Shannessy in the side of the head.
Mr Newall said Mr O’Shannessy had been standing with both hands behind his back.
“He was unconscious for about 30 seconds and the Gwydir guys called an ambulance straight away,” Mr Newall said.
“The hospital released him at about 5pm and a couple of Pirates guys waited and drove him home.”
Mr Newall said he had sent Mr O’Shannessy a text message yesterday who replied, saying he was okay but still had a headache.
He said the game was called off 10-12 minutes early because emotions were running high.
Gwydir River Rats president Ben Roberts said the club apologised to spectators who had witnessed the incident.
“It’s in the hands of the judiciary of the New England zone and, as a club, we’ll decide (what action is needed) after that,” he said.
New England Rugby Union zone president Luke Stephen issued a statement yesterday saying the zone was advised of an incident involving a player abusing and striking a match official during the game on Saturday.
“The player was sent from the field and will be required to appear before the NERU judiciary,” he said.
“The player will be cited to appear on breaching the ARU code of Conduct on clauses 3:D, 3:h, 3:I and 3:J.
“New England Rugby Union will not be making any further comment on the issue until the NERU judiciary has dealt with the matter.”
Police are also investigating the assault.