GROUP 10 president Linore Zamparini says he is disappointed two suspended rugby league players have been given permission to play rugby union.
Orange Hawks players Tatafu Na’aniumotu and Semisi Katoa were suspended by the Group 10 judiciary last year for their involvement in a brawl during the league derby against Orange CYMS.
This week NSW Rugby Union executive director Bruce Worboys confirmed, in a statement, the two players had been cleared to play for Orange City in the Central West Rugby Union effective immediately.
Zamparini said Group 10 and CWRU had a cross-code agreement where players suspended from one code would not be permitted to play in the other.
“I’m disappointed, but in saying that they’ve obviously looked at it and made a decision,” Zamparini said of the CWRU.
At the Group 10 judiciary hearing last year following the brawl, Na’aniumotu pleaded guilty to charges of misconduct, striking and contrary conduct and was suspended until December 1, this year.
Katoa pleaded not guilty to the same charges but was found guilty and suspended until November 1, this year.
An Australian Rugby Union memo from October 18, 2000 states, “players suspended by other sporting codes by way of foul play, code of conduct violations, doping offences or other disciplinary matters are not permitted to participate in rugby for the duration of their suspension.”
However, the ARU’s “Suspension in other sporting codes” policy provides a pathway for this to be challenged.
The policy says, “Persons seeking to be exempted from the general position and participate at a non-elite level are invited to show cause in relation to their proposed participation through a formal [documented hearing] process.”
A CWRU Judiciary Committee, made up of five people, heard the application from Orange City on behalf of Na’aniumotu and Katoa on June 6.
Worboys’ statement said: “The committee has determined that the players, having served approximately 11 months suspension, should be entitled to play rugby.”
The CWRU made no further comment.
Zamparini said if things were reversed, and suspended rugby union players wanted to play in Group 10, it would be different.
“We would certainly honour the cross-code agreement,” Zamparini said.
He also left no doubt as to whether Group 10 would reduce the players’ suspensions.
“Our decision still stands until the end of the season,” he said.
Group 10 judiciary chairman Glen Boatswain said he had no formal comment on the decision.
Zamparini hoped the decision would be the final chapter in what has been an ongoing story.
“Hopefully this puts to bed this whole incident,” he said.