NRL, The Mole news 2022, Matt Nean fighting 20-year suspension for touching referee during bush grand final
A bush footy player is prepared to go to the Supreme Court to clear his name after being banned from rugby league for 20 years.
Matt Nean, something of a legend in country football in the northern NSW area, was given the 20-year suspension for “making contact” with referee James Brown in a 2016 grand final between his West Tamworth Lions and old rivals North Tamworth.
Nean, now 31, was accused of shoulder charging Brown, despite video of the game – which he was not allowed to use in his defence – being said to show incidental contact between the pair.
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The talented indigenous playmaker was offered an 18-week suspension with an early guilty plea, but wanted to fight it at the judiciary – and that’s when he was slapped with the 20-year ban.
“I can’t even go and watch my kids play… it has shattered me,” Nean, who works for the Tamworth Aboriginal Lands Council, told Wide World of Sports.
“When they said 20 years I thought it was a joke… I soon realised it wasn’t.
“I cried that whole night.
“Even at the judiciary, the referee wanted to change the charge against me from ‘shoulder charge’ to ‘incidental contact’ but was told he couldn’t.
“They wouldn’t let me use the video, which showed I just accidentally brushed past him (the referee).
“The deadline for an appeal is getting close and we have tried every avenue to get the ban overturned or reduced.
“The Supreme Court seems my last chance. I don’t want to take that sort of action but it seems I have no other choice.”
Nean admits he was no angel in his younger days but has worked hard to change his reputation.
“I work mentoring indigenous youths and I just want to give back to the game,” he said.
“I want to coach kids, but I can’t because of my suspension.”
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