ORANGE City centre Tatafu Na’aniumotu will miss the next six weeks of the 2014 Blowes Clothing Cup premiership after pleading guilty to stomping at a Central West Rugby Union judiciary hearing on Wednesday night.
Held at Orange’s Charles Stuart University campus, the three-man CWRU panel accepted a “remorseful” Na’aniumotu’s guilty plea to the incident that netted him a red card in the Lions’ 24-19 win over CSU Bathurst last Saturday.
Charged under section 10.4 (e) which encompasses dangerous and foul play, Na’aniumotu is free to play in Orange City’s July 19 clash with Mudgee at Pride Park.
It’s a huge blow to City’s 2014 campaign.
The mid-field wreaking ball will miss crucial games against the in-form Orange Emus (June 14), the second grand final rematch of 2014 against Parkes (June 21) and the Lions’ trip to Victoria Park to face Dubbo, the only side to beat Orange City so far this season.
Beside Na’aniumotu throughout the judicial process, Orange City co-coach Mick Gray said there was no intention in his strike centre’s actions.
“He was just running the ball up and accidentally trod on the CSU player,” Gray said.
Gray said even though the incident had been deemed accidental, the judiciary process has strict guidelines stipulating, even without intent, if a breach of the game’s rules is committed then a player is subject to charge.
“On that basis we never disputed that the incident happened,” Gray continued.
“It was a big penalty though. Tafu was charged with a mid-range offence, and the maximum for those type of offences is usually five weeks. The process was fair, we’re more than happy with that, but the penalty is bigger than we thought.”
Orange City has seven days to lodge an appeal. Gray couldn’t reveal whether or not the club would exact that right.
In the aftermath of what ended as spiteful clash between CSU and City, the spotlight was also on a alleged punch thrown by Na’aniumotu at a CSU Bathurst player following the stomping, but CWRU chief executive officer Peter Veenstra said the six week ban wasn’t for punching.
Na’aniumotu was one of the three Orange Hawks players embroiled in the notorious derby brawl with CYMS in 2011.
Veenstra, however, said any previous misdemeanours in a rival code didn’t weigh against the now Orange City centre on Wednesday night.
Also, the proviso that Na’aniumotu be incident free or risk a life suspension from rugby union while in his tenure at the Lions’ club was also a condition that lasted his first 12 months at Pride Park only.
Veenstra said any incident of foul play in the CWRU’s Blowes Clothing Cup competitions or Graincorp Cup premierships will be met with stern punishments.