NSW footballer Matt Nean referee shoulder charge video after infamous Group 4 incident

A NSW footballer has confirmed he is prepared to go to the Supreme Court in his fight to have a 20-year ban overturned.

Matt Nean, a former bush footy player from Group 4 club West Tamworth Lions, was handed the punishment after being found guilty of deliberately shouldering the referee during his team’s grand final loss to North Tamworth in 2016.

He was charged with contrary conduct and offered an 18-week suspension. His decision to fight the charge saw the ban extended to 20-years when the judicial panel found him guilty.

Nean was one of seven Lions players sent off by referee James Brown in the farcical decider that was called off 10 minutes early by match officials after the Lions were reduced to six players.

Nean’s brother Sean was handed a suspended jail sentence for his actions during the spiteful contest.

Sean Nean was banned for 30 years by the Group 4 judiciary after being found guilty of headbutting a rival player and making contact with Brown’s head.

Matt Nean, however, now claims he never intended to make contact with Brown and new vision of the incident has emerged appearing to support his argument.

According to The Sydney Morning HeraldNean’s lawyers earlier this year asked the NSWRL to review its verdict.

The NSWRL has refused.

His case has returned to the headlines this week on the back of video of the incident coming to light.

Journalist Angus Thomson was first to share two different videos of the incident.

There has been a groundswell of support for Nean on social media since the video was posted recently. It shows the contact made between Nean and Brown was incidental and was only made when the referee held his arm out while awarding a penalty.

Nean has told SBS extension he wants the ban overturned so he can see his children play the sport and work towards coaching junior participants in the future.

His ban outlaws him from having any involvement in the sport on an official basis.

He says he has been told to leave venues previously when watching his children play.

“That’s the thing that breaks me the most. When I get told I can’t even spectate, it takes a toll. Not only on me but on my kids and my partner,” he said.

“My whole family has been affected by this.”

He has now confirmed to nine.com.au that he is prepared to take his challenge to the Supreme Court.

“It has shattered me,” Nean said.

“When they said 20 years I thought it was a joke… I soon realized it wasn’t.

“I cried that whole night.

“Even at the judicial, the referee wanted to change the charge against me from ‘shoulder charge’ to ‘incidental contact’ but was told he couldn’t.

“They wouldn’t let me use the video, which showed I just accidentally brushed past him (the referee).

“The deadline for an appeal is getting close and we have tried every avenue to get the ban overturned or reduced.

“The Supreme Court seems my last chance. I don’t want to take that sort of action but it seems I have no other choice.”

During the challenge of the first ban in 2016, Country Rugby League boss Terry Quinn said: “There is an absolute zero tolerance through the game at all levels for this sort of offence, whether it be physical contact or verbal abuse of our match officials.

“In the case of Matt Nean, you are talking about a repeat offender who had only just returned from serving a long suspension for a similar offence.

“It is indefensible conduct that deserves the harshest of penalties.”

The Nean brothers were also sent off in the 2015 grand final. Matt Nean was handed a 14 week ban and had only played three matches during the 2016 season before being sent of in the grand final.

Matt was found guilty of verbal abusing and threatening a touch judge after originally being sin-binned during the 2015 game.

He is now desperate to get one final chance in the sport he loves.


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