The National, Tuesday September 8th, 2015
THE attack on Digicel Cup grand final referee Tim Rutherford last Saturday was a cowardly act by a Simbu Lions fan.
It was disgraceful incident and a shameful act.
In Australian parlance that was a “dog act”.
Some league fans on social media went further to describe the fan as “primitive” and an “animal”.
Every rugby league fan in this country, and especially those present at the Sir John Guise Stadium, should be ashamed of the actions of this pathetic excuse for a fan.
Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko has promised to throw the book at this individual by having him banned from all Digicel
Cup fixtures and from the venue.
Tkatchenko says criminal charges will be laid against him.
We trust he will see this through and make an example of this man.
The incident happened in full view of the grandstand where special guests, sponsors and the minister and other VIPs.
The assault took place as Rutherford left the field after controlling the clash which saw the Agmark Gurias claim their sixth title with a 26-18 win over the Lions.
The final was watched by an estimated 9000 fans at the stadium as well as those lucky enough to have access to TVWAN.
The fan, a middle-aged man wearing a Lions polo shirt and standing next to the Simbu bench stalked over to the referee and struck him once across the face/chest area causing him to fall over in shock more than anything else.
A police officer, who was one of a group 30-plus members of the constabulary brought in by the organisers, PNG NRL and the major sponsor Digicel, for crowd control reacted in typical fashion.
He struck the offending fan and would have assaulted him further had it not been for irate Lions fans in the grandstand, who proceeded to hurl plastic water bottles and an assortment of debris down on the police while shouting abuse.
The point they were trying to get across was for the men in blue to act professionally and not beat the man up.
The old adage of two wrongs not making a right was in play here however, one could not help but suspect what every non-Lions fan in the grand stand was thinking in their minds: “he deserves to get a beating from the police”.
What was hard to fathom was why a security cordon was not firmed around the referee and lines men as they made their way off the field.
Instead, security personnel including the police were content to stand around almost aimlessly and watch proceedings knowing full well that anything could happen.
Whoever was in charge of on field security failed to appreciate this.
The game itself was a typically brutal encounter with the Lions egged on by their fans level the scores at 18-18 in the final quarter of the game after being initially outplayed by the Gurias in the first half.
In the end though, the better team won. The side with the better execution and championship qualities came through in the final analysis.
That is not to say the Lions did not belong on the same park as the Gurias because they were one of the better teams through the course of the season.
But the Gurias, in all fairness, were operating on a different level.
They were a little better in every department.
But the areas they stood out in were their discipline and control under pressure.
Of course it helped that they played smarter football and did not panic when faced with adversity in the form of a surging Lions outfit in the second half.
Regardless , one had the feeling that the Lions were living on borrowed time in terms of how long they could maintain their intensity.
When prop Pidi Tongap barged his way over the line to score under the uprights with less than seven minutes remaining one could sense the Lions’ will had been broken.
It takes a special side to absorb pressure and hit back late in the game.
The Gurias were the better team and even one-eyed Lions fans would have to agree, you make your own luck as well and create opportunities and make the most of them to win games.
Accepting a loss seems to be the final frontier for league fans in this country.
We all need to think and act better in situations like this for our own sake and that of the game we love.