Child ‘humiliated’ by divisive sports ban
The mother of an 11-year-old rugby talent is refusing to be silenced, despite an attempt from Australian rugby officials to clear up the mess that left a Sydney family "humiliated".
Sydney Junior Rugby Union (SJRU) released an official statement on Wednesday in response to criticism from one mum about her son Leo Hinekiteao being banned from playing because of his superior size in a junior rugby competition.
Ayla Hinekiteao launched a scathing attack on rugby officials earlier this month when she revealed the shambolic officialdom that resulted in her son being prevented from playing during an eight-week Spring sevens tournament - after he had already put on his gear and run out onto the field with his teammates.
"Sorry for posting this Leo, but at the end of the day you are still A KID and CRYING because you don't fully understand what is going on and why you cannot play is ALLOWED - 11 years old," Ayla wrote on Facebook.
"Just before the whistle blew an official from Waratahs approached us to say the 'big kid' can't play no more."
The New South Wales Rugby Union this week responded to Ayla's claims by admitting the situation could have been handled more delicately.
However, the governing body is adamant that the decision to ban the 11-year-old from his own age group was correctly made in line with its controversial size for age policy.
"While it is not NSWRU or SJRU's 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," the NSW Rugby statement said.
"Despite several attempts to get in contact with all those involved, the matter was then required to be addressed at the competition in person.
"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 teammates 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."
The statement said the size for age policy was established to guarantee the game is "enjoyed by all in a safe way".
"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," it read.
Ayla, however, has revealed the deep hurt caused by the botched handling of the sensitive matter.
In two lengthy Facebook posts, which include videos she says are the exact moment Leo was left heartbroken, Ayla says it was "a complete joke" that her son was only informed about his ban halfway through a season when his registration had already been paid.
"Today, as the boys were in position ready to kick off Leo was stood down," she wrote on Facebook.
"My Issue - 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 me my kids can't play when he's already tied his boots and is ready to kick off.
"The management of this tournament is s***. He's f***en 11, They have treated him like an outcast.
"Yes he is a bigger body out there but it is f***en Rugby Union not OzTag! There was no u12s comp for this and our club never registered a u13s team. Mentally he is 11 not 15.
"My contact details are all on file and an emergency contact too - there was another way to sort this out.
"You have based this on size and appearance against the smaller more inexperienced teams in this competition."
Ayla revealed her son's team was forced to forfeit the match when the entire team walked off the field alongside Leo in protest over the official's decision to ban him from the game.
She posted on Facebook this week that she is still yet to receive a real apology for the "humiliation" her son endured.
"No apology has been said by those involved - an attempt to apologise, maybe. But a formal direct apology to Leo & his teammates has not been heard," Ayla posted on Facebook.
She says she is still very unsatisfied with the response from the SJRU after claiming to have confronted the organisation's chairman recently.
She claims no apology was given by the official.
In a scathing comment, Ayla suggests the SJRU apology to her son has been for appearances only.
"You want to post up a public statement so the world can see what a great organisation SJRU still is but cannot rectify the humiliation you put my 11-year-old through, seems genuine," she posted this week,
"I THINK NOT - also before I forget, he said Leo is suited more for u13's but then still may need to be assessed for that age group. 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 kids."