A Rushworth reserves footballer has been hit with a record 15-year suspension for pushing an umpire.
AFL Victoria will deregister Martin Forde after the Kyabram District Football League’s independent tribunal handed down its decision on Wednesday.
A player can apply for re-registration with AFL Victoria 12 months after serving the suspension period, potentially allowing him to play again in 2034.
The Tigers player faced the tribunal as a result of an investigation into an abandoned match between Rushworth and Ardmona on July22.
Forde pleaded guilty to unbecoming conduct in the hearing that lasted about 90 minutes.
The game in question was called off at quarter-time after Forde forcefully pushed an umpire with both hands in the face following a free kick being paid to the Cats.
The umpire was verbally abused before being knocked to the ground with the force of the push.
The contact came as the umpire was in the process of red-carding the Rushworth player.
Goulburn Valley Football Umpires Association president Darren Meek applauded the tribunal’s handling of the case.
I think it sends a clear message to players and officials that touching or striking, or any offence against an umpire, and you’re going to serve a very severe penalty,’’ Meek said.
‘‘The independent tribunal behaved in a very professional manner and handled a very difficult situation very well.
‘‘They’ve sent a message out to the football community that behaviour like this will not be tolerated.’’
Meek said the umpire, who has umpired more than 300 senior games, was still shaken by the incident and had not taken to the field since.
The offended umpire gave evidence at the tribunal via phone.
‘‘We’re not sure whether he will umpire again,’’ Meek said.
‘‘He has received support from our association, plus his family and friends and he’s had a lot of private stuff he’s had to go through and found it very difficult.
‘‘In relation to the tribunal, I wanted to commend all the members for their concern into the wellbeing of the umpire; it was first-class.’’
AFL Goulburn Murray league operations manager Grant Wilson said Rushworth and Forde had the option to appeal the ban, which was believed to be the longest in this region’s football history.
However, Rushworth president Peta Williams said the club would not be appealing the sentence.
‘‘We’re going to accept the decision,’’ Williams said.
‘‘The tribunal and how the whole process was played out was good; Marty knew he had done the wrong thing and is going to accept the penalty and move on.’’