By MELTON PAIS
HAGEN Eagles captain Junior Rau says the 10-year ban meted out by the Papua New Guinea National Rugby League for his part in the violence after the Digicel Cup preliminary final against the Agmark Gurias two week’s ago is too harsh.
He said he had gone in to defend Gurias players after Eagles fans stormed the Sir John Guise Stadium field.
Rau claimed he ran in to protect Gurias’ Ezra Gotuno after realising Eagles fans were targeting players from the East New Britain side.
“Me and Ezra are like brothers, we went to school together and played rugby through the grades and junior AFL in Port Moresby.
“I couldn’t just stand there and let him and his team-mates get attacked by the supporters, who were running towards him.
“I wasn’t trying to fight with the Gurias players when I ran in, I was trying to protect Ezra,” Rau said.
“Ezra can confirm that even if the video (of the incident) doesn’t show it.”
Gotuno, who confirmed Rau’s claim from Kokopo, said his friend had come to his defence.
Rau was not interviewed before the PNGNRL made its decision to suspend him and prop Francis Ray for 10 years.
The 23-year-old was however arrested by police after the incident and charged with assaulting touch judge Benson Kaupa after the game.
PNGNRL chief executive officer Stanley Hondina said none of the players banned and fined had been interviewed before the board meeting last Friday.
He said the decision to ban Rau, Ray and trainer Stanley Akinu, as well as the Eagles franchise (for three years) and fine four Gurias players, had been done on the recommendation of the Digicel Cup judiciary based on reports by the match officials, as well as TVWAN footage of the incident.
Hondina said the franchises had the right to appeal the PNGNRL board decisions and had 14 days to do so, however, the clubs were required to pay a K5000 fee for each appeal.
Rau, who completed graduated from De La Salle Secondary School (NCD) in 2012, dedicated the last three years to rugby league after being unable to continue his tertiary education.
The Western Highlander had started a promising career after earning selection into the PNG Prime Minster’s XIII last year and then being named captain of the Eagles mid-way through the 2016 season. “I’d really like my ban to be reviewed because I did what I thought was right,” Rau said.
By MELTON PAIS