An 11-year-old boy was left in tears after being told he was “too big” to play in a junior rugby union competition.
Ayla Hinekiteao’s son Leonidas was abruptly taken off the field in the fifth match of an eight-week Spring Sevens rugby tournament in Sydney earlier this month.
Despite playing in earlier rounds of the competition, the 11-year-old was removed from the field before kickoff by a New South Wales Rugby Union official for breaking the size for age policy.
“Just before the whistle blew an official from Waratahs approached us to say the ‘big kid’ can’t play anymore,” Ayla Hinekiteao wrote on Facebook.
She added, “Leo stood there for a good 5-6 minutes listening to his explanation of why he cannot play until his nan took him away – you do not address an 11 year old and explain rules that are in place, you address that with the adults who pay and register the kid/s.
“If there was an issue with him playing in his own age group, don’t go and accept his registration and take my money. Call me to discuss this during the week, don’t go and tell my kids can’t play when he’s already tied his boots and is ready to kick off.”
Leonidas was left in tears, with the referee refusing to blow the whistle until he had left the field.
His teammates left the field with Leonidas, and forfeited the game.
New South Wales Rugby Union has since released a statement defending their decision, claiming they want the game to be “enjoyed by all in a safe way”.
The statement reads: “While it is not NSWRU or SJRU intention to prevent any player from participating in rugby, the player involved had been previously assessed in accordance with the policy and it was deemed he was required to compete in an older age division.
“We recognise that perhaps further attempts could have been taken to speak to all those involved; family, players and club; to minimise impact to the player, his team mates and the wider competition.
“While the matter had tried to be addressed since the opening round of the competition, the miscommunication between all parties meant the matter had not been fully addressed.
“We want to see the player involved stay part of our competition and we are continuing to work with the club to ensure he and his family can stay involved.”