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Southern Zone Rugby League v New Zealand Rugby League & Counties Manukau Zone


Appeal against decision of NSO – urgent appeal against a decision of New Zealand Rugby League Appeals Committee (NZRLAC) not to deduct competition points from CM who fielded an ineligible player contrary to the relevant rules in a match – NZRLAC overturned decision of the NZRL Football Committee (NZRLFC) deducting two competition points and fining CM – outcome of the appeal potentially affected which teams qualify for national final – NZRLAC decided breach of the rules by CM fielding unregistered and ineligible player V and the rules set out a penalty of points deduction but that CM took all reasonable steps to satisfy themselves of V’s eligibility and others should have warned CM of a problem – it quashed NZRLFC decision – Tribunal disagreed – CM had responsibility to ensure didn’t field unregistered and ineligible players and hadn’t done enough to ensure this – V (registered with NZ Warriors) told CM that also registered with Auckland club (which was an eligibility requirement) but that was incorrect – however, no evidence that CM directly enquired of V or otherwise as to whether he fulfilled the other required eligibility criteria – CM made an enquiry to NZRL about player registrations but didn’t get a reply – nevertheless CM included V in their team which was taking a risk – not reasonable to assume that because there was no response there was no problem – CM didn’t follow up their enquiry with sufficient effort in the circumstances – other avenues CM could have followed – NZRLAC considered the substantial fault was the failure of NZRL or ARL to warn CM of a potential problem and effectively took the onus away from CM and placed it on others – however, clear obligation was on CM to field a team of eligible players and significant had fault in not following up on enquiry they initiated – rules put CM on notice and responsibility was theirs from beginning – no evidential basis for the NZRLAC’s conclusion – must have been apparent to all involved that V had been playing semi-professional sport and was a need to be careful and cautious as to eligibility – Appeal allowed and decision of NZRLFC reinstated.

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