Defiant Watene-Zelezniak forgives attacker
BEING physically attacked while serving as a touch judge won't stop Penrith star Dallin Watene-Zelezniak from continue to volunteer at junior rugby league games
The Panthers winger yesterday admitted to being shaken by the incident that resulted in a St Marys official being handed a lifetime ban for grabbing him by the throat while helping out his own junior club St Clair.
"It's going to take a lot more than that for me to stop helping out the junior league and me remembering where I came from," Watene-Zelezniak said.
"He had a bad day. Everyone's had a bad day. I've had some bad days. It's just unlucky that I had to be that trigger on that day for him."
Watene-Zelezniak had played for the Panthers later that day.
"My game ritual is in the morning of a game, I like to forget about myself and do something for someone else. It puts me in a good mindframe for the game," he said.
"I wasn't going down there to be the touch judge, it's just that no one wanted to do it and I just fit in there. I thought that was my thing I could do."
The 21-year-old Kiwi international credited his religious beliefs for allowing him to forgive his attacker, and he even apologised to the man for the backlash he's copped.
"What kind of guy would I be if I couldn't forgive anyone? I'd be depressed every day, I'd be angry. It's harder to hate someone than it is to forgive them," he said.
"Obviously someone grabs you by the throat, you want to do something about it. But the way I've grown up with my beliefs, it was a no-brainer.
"I did speak to a few people from the St Marys club and he was apologetic to me.
"To him, I'm very sorry for the way it's come out in the media and the way he's been put down by people. If I can forgive him, then everyone else can forgive him."
The 21-year-old Kiwi international said the experience made him appreciate the work done by NRL match officials.
"I came off the field and I was like, if that can happen in under-12s, imagine what the NRL referees and touch judges get," he said.
"I've always had a lot of respect for them, without them the game can't function. My hat's off to them."