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Ropiha cops lengthy ban

Martinborough’s Chance Ropiha, centre, clearing the ball in the 2020 semifinal against Marist. PHOTO/FILE

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

Martinborough halfback Chance Ropiha’s rugby season is over after copping a lengthy ban for threatening a referee.

Wairarapa Bush Rugby Union [WBRU] chief executive officer Tony Hargood confirmed on Thursday that Ropiha appeared at a judicial hearing on Wednesday night and copped a ban for 16 games.

The suspension covers the remainder of the 2021 season and part of the 2022 season.

That came after the judiciary upheld a complaint that Ropiha had shown threatening behaviour towards referee Kaleb Rowlands after last Saturday’s premier game between Gladstone and Martinborough at Gladstone.

Hargood said there would be no further comment from WBRU as Ropiha had seven days to appeal the decision.

“As chief executive, I support the current sanctions imposed by the judicial panel.

“It sends a clear message to all players, regardless of whether it is during a game or after a game, there is no tolerance of any form of poor behaviour targeted at officials or referees.

“The union has continuously worked hard on our sideline behaviour and culture within the competitions.

“To date in 2021, the number of our judicial hearings have dropped dramatically, so the message is getting through.

“But it is clear there is more work to be done on education and responsibility.”

Wai-Bush Rugby Referees Association chairman Graeme Reisima was disappointed with the incident and was surprised it involved Ropiha.

“The judiciary have sent a clear message, and the club have accepted that he was in the wrong. But this was at the serious end of the scale,” Reisima said.

“Often, the abuse aimed at referees is non-threatening and is more critical, as opposed to threatening language.

“We accept that in any sport, there is passion involved. Players often see things differently than our perspective, but this one was more serious, and that is reflected in the judicial penalty.”

Ropiha’s Martinborough coach James Bruce was also disappointed and surprised at Ropiha’s actions but said the club would support him.

“A lot of those young guys have outside issues, and it’s going to be frustrating, and we will stick with him.

“He’s come a long way and has worked really hard, but it was a bit of a brain fart, and he apologised to the ref on Sunday,” Bruce said.

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