WADE Longbottom, a passionate man, particularly when it comes to Indigenous rights, has reacted angrily after the term 'n---er' was used as the Group Seven Rugby League junior AGM, saying there is a 'cultural issue' with some of the competition's hierarchy.
Longbottom, the president of the Nowra Warriors, made an official complaint to NSWRL after Group Seven operations manager Peter Mehl made the reported off the cuff comment 'n---er in a woodpile'.
The comment led to Longbottom storming out of the meeting at the Kiama Leagues Club.
"When I first heard Peter say 'n---ger in a woodpile', I was shocked and asked him to repeat himself - as he couldn't of possibly have said that," Longbottom said.
"He quickly tried to apologise for the comment and continued on with the meeting despite plenty of others around the room whispering and in shock.
"I sat there pining for a couple of minutes and a member from the Kiama Knights asked me, 'Did Peter really say that?'
"As we were voting on the merged competitions when it got to me, I stood up and said I was deeply offended by Peter's disgusting racist remark and stormed out - it doesn't get much worse than a person in his position making a comment like that."
While Longbottom admits he is an emotionally charged person, he doesn't regret how he handled the situation.
"As there was close to 50 people at the meeting, I felt isolated as people didn't openly support me in that moment.
"This shows there is either a culture in Group Seven that makes it hard for people to call out racism or that racism is acceptable.
"For someone like Peter, in leadership position to use that word in an open forum disgusts me.
"But the fact no one else said anything disgusts me even more, especially those who were trying to say things like the term is only racist in the United States.
"We need to make a stance otherwise nothing will change."
The next day, Mehl sent out his apology email, which Longbottom labelled as a 'kick in the guts'.
"Anytime someone opens an email giving excuses to why they said something, that's not an apology - he's doing it to tick the boxes," he said.
"He should be apologising for making the comment, not for offending people."
In the next 24 hours, Longbottom received phones calls from both Kevin Whitford (Group Seven junior president) and Kevin Felgate (NSWRL region manager Southern), distancing themselves from Mehl's comment.
But that was not the case with the phone call by Group Seven president Roy Mills, after Longbottom sent in his official complaint - a letter which disappointed him to write, as the competition had gone down this path but a relief once submitted.
"Roy called me the day after I submitted the letter and opened the conversation by saying Peter isn't a racist and tried to intimidate me," he said.
"He said I was overreacting and I was the only person that was offended - he was trying to sweep it under the rug.
"I then asked Roy to send me his thoughts in writing and ended the conversation."
In Mills' text message, he wrote in bold letters, Mehl isn't a racist.
But Longbottom never called him a racist, rather saying he made a racist remark.
Days later, Mehl, accompanied by Group Seven director Allan Carroll, met with Felgate and St George Illawarra CEO Brian Johnston - who announced on Tuesday he will be leaving the position in early 2020.
It was at this meeting at the Steelers Club where an action plan started to be developed to ensure something like this doesn't happen again.
Since then, Mills has gone on record saying Mehl, who hasn't tried to contact Longbottom, shouldn't lose his job over the comment.
But on Monday, Group Seven issued a statement saying operations manager Peter Mehl would be on stress leave until further notice.
"To all clubs, as of November 8, Peter Mehl our operations manager is on sick leave until further notice.
Arrangements will be made to staff the office following the annual general meeting."
While Longbottom admits he doesn't want to be the judge and jury - despite saying he'd lose his job if he made a racist remark like that - he knows there have to be changes at the top.
"I was disappointed Roy [Mills] came out and tried to downplay the comment," he said.
"In the same vein, it's been good to see Dylan [Farrell] come out and support me.
"I've received endless messages on social media.
"But as Dylan said, if nothing is done at the top, I will continue to shout loud.
"Sure, you can bring in an action plan but how can people like Roy and Peter - privileged white males who've never been exposed or belittled like this - expect to be the ones initiating this program and be taken seriously."
Longbottom, who speaks for himself and not the Warriors club, said now is the time to take action on the cultural problem at the top of Group Seven.
"The bigger issues here are, one, no one else at the junior AGM thought there was anything wrong with Peter's comments and, two, people are frightened to speak up and make a stance," he said.
"Casual racism is not okay and it's setting a bad example for our kids.
"It does make me feel isolated speaking out as a minority against the majority but that's how strongly I feel on the matter."
Longbottom said regardless of the outcome of Wednesday's senior AGM, there needs to be cultural adviser on the league's committee to ensure people from all ethnic backgrounds involved in Group Seven are treated at equals.