NORFU: judiciary works `particularly well’

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The North Otago union is very disappointed with much of the content and the obvious lack of balance in the April 29 column.
While the union is not immune from criticism, we take exception to many of the statements made in the story for their lack of facts and balance. At no time, did Terry seek our response.
Terry, like any member of the public, is welcome to attend the NORFU annual meeting. The financial position of the union was clearly outlined and all those present were entitled to _ and many did _ ask questions on all topics in and around North Otago rugby.
The column quotes Maheno coach Mark Wilson, who recently appeared at an NORFU judicial hearing for verbally abusing a referee at the conclusion of a game. Wilson acknowledged the offence, showed remorse and apologised to the referee. He was found guilty and received a two-week penalty. He did not appeal, and has served his two-week ban from coaching.
Wilson is quoted as making an “inquiry” to the referee. In fact, he verbally abused the referee and had to be ushered away by a colleague. He was told by the referee that the referee did not want to speak to him at that particular moment. Mr Wilson ignored the referee and continued to berate him.
Without referees, we have no game. Abusing them is totally unacceptable.
Wilson says he wrote a letter to the Referees Association asking how he could get assistance. The association has never received this letter and Wilson has never followed up as to its whereabouts.
The column also suggests “local coaches now have to deal with referee education officer Colin Hawke but he is only in Oamaru on Mondays”.
This, in our opinion, is extremely unfair and completely wrong. Hawke is part of a strong North Otago referees management team who work closely with clubs and their coaches. Both Hawke and Hamish McMurdo are New Zealand Rugby referee coaches and are excellent communicators.
Our referees are always available to attend trainings and assist club coaches at all levels. Hawke has done a terrific job lifting the standard and professionalism of local referees and now we have a group of very talented referees who will serve North Otago rugby extremely well in the future. Colin and Hamish are easily accessible during the week and on Saturdays. The North Otago rugby judicial system works particularly well, and hearings are both professional and transparent. The panel is independent from the union and any penalties administered are done with clarity and under clear NZR guidelines. The board of North Otago rugby has a policy of not naming those found guilty at judicial hearings. The main reason for this is that all guilty verdicts are subject to appeal.
North Otago rugby is going very well at present, and our clubs and the Referees Association have worked extremely hard to recruit new members, young and old.
EDITOR’S NOTETerry O’Neill stands by his column, which questioned the North Otago union’s levels of transparency and the processes that surrounded a judicial case involving a premier coach.
However, as Oamaru Mail editor, I regret we did not seek some balance to the elements of the column that were beyond straight opinion. By way of an apology from the newspaper, I offered the union a right of reply. _ Hayden Meikle