Police called over ‘appalling’ footy brawl
THE Omeo and District Football League has launched an investigation into an ugly incident over the weekend that reportedly resulted in a teenage umpire barricading himself in a dressing room for protection.
A senior Aussie rules match between Swan Reach and Buchan in East Gippsland, Victoria was abandoned on Saturday after a series of striking offences.
The Weekly Times reports league officials have announced a tribunal hearing will be held on Tuesday night to deal with an incident that led to the season-ending fixture being called off in the second quarter.
The report claims a Swan Reach player was temporarily sent from the field for allegedly striking an opposition player in the first minute of the game.
A man who claimed to have witnessed the brawl told 3AW Radio on Tuesday morning a free kick in the second quarter resulted in the same man allegedly assaulting another Buchan player when a free kick was paid against him.
The witness, who also claimed to be the father of the 17-year-old umpire, said the second striking incident prompted his son to declare the match abandoned as "quite a large" melee ensued on the field.
The witness, who identified himself under the name "Kevin", said a president of one of the clubs then stormed onto the field and began abusing the umpires.
"It's appalling," he told 3AW's Neil Mitchell.
"He wanted to make umpiring a career.
"He said, 'Dad this is my last game I can't do this anymore.'
"The AFL needs to step in."
He said his teenage son had to lock himself in a dressing room because of an angry reaction from spectators and players as he left the field.
"I got a phone call from him during the afternoon - he was in the change rooms and I could tell by his voice he was very emotional," the man said.
"He was scared. He told me there was a booing crowd outside and there were police on the way to guard the door."
Victoria Police told 3AW they were not called to the scene, but were aware an incident took place on Saturday.
The Weekly Times reported Buchan president Chris Mathers called an off-duty police officer to attend the scene to ensure the umpires' safety as they left the venue.
"As far as I'm concerned, the league needs to investigate it fully and they will find whatever they find and dish out punishments," Mathers told Australia's oldest rural newspaper.
East Gippsland Umpires Association director of umpiring David Read also told The Weekly Times the whistleblowers have the full support of the association for their handling of the ugly incident.
"We're just there to umpire football, so if the players aren't interested in playing football then we're not interested in umpiring the game," Read said.
"It's a workplace for us. We're not there to feel unsafe."
However, the same report quoted Swan Reach coach Ken Corken declaring the entire situation was a "big joke".
"They call it a melee - all it was is just a couple of friendly punches thrown. There was no malice in anything," Corken said.
"All they had to do was ball the ball up and it could've kept the game going.
"I've been involved in footy for over 40 years and I've seen a lot, lot worse and the games have continued. The first sign of any trouble they've just blown the whistle and said 'Nup, I can't continue.'"
"I wish there was some other league director there (on Saturday) to see what went on. It was a joke, that's my view."