Adrian ‘AJ’ Blair and his mother, Ronnella Onyeajum, have vowed to ensure racial vilification is not part of rugby league.
AJ said he was vilified this season in the Group 7 under 16s competition when he was called a “coon”.
He retaliated, striking at the Gerringong player and spitting on the ground nearby, saying “This is what I think of you and your racism.”
He was cited and called before the judiciary. He received an 18-month suspended sentence for striking and allegedly spitting in an opponent's face. He was banned from playing out the season.
The player allegedly involved in the incident was not cited at the same time because the Berry committee got its paperwork in too late.
AJ says he was provoked and reacted but maintains he did not spit in the opponent’s face.
“How could my spit reach about five metres and get straight in his face when I was aiming at the ground,” he said.
Mrs Onyeajum said the timing of paperwork was not the issue.
“To me they are putting policy and procedures before racial vilification and it's not right,” she said.
“They talk about reconciliation and they do a big campaign in the National Rugby League about reconciliation and about [racial vilification] not being right and so why not start off at a grassroot level?”
She said her son was not shown duty of care.
“This matter is not going to go away,” she said.
“I will take it to whoever will listen - the NRL bosses, I don’t care.”
She said the incident could have been an opportunity for Group 7 and the County Rugby League (CRL) to show leadership
CRL Southern Region manager Kevin Felgate said the allegation was being investigated.
“The investigations are still ongoing and the file is open,” he said.
“The CRL and Group 7 takes this issue extremely seriously.”
Mr Felgate said it was important both sides of the story were heard.
The process has been drawn-out as the CRL continues its investigations.
“There has been a number of counter claims and arguments,” Mr Felgate said.
“We have six different off-shoots we need to resolve.”
Meanwhile, AJ had to watch is team get knocked out of the semi-finals series but has vowed to fight on.
“This is not just for me. It’s for every Indigenous student and even people from other races,” he said
AJ said that what should had been one of the best times of his life had turned into a nightmare.
“It was horrible,” he said about sitting on the sideline and watching his team-mates getting beaten.
Mrs Onyeajum said it was heartbreaking to see her son so upset.
“We sat down, talked about it and when he told me and the first thing I did was call Kylie from the Berry Rugby League football club and they have been so supportive,” she said
“[Racial vilification] happened when I went to school and is still happening today and it’s not right. I won’t stand by and let this happen to my children.”