SOUTH Warrnambool’s search for its first win of the season suffered another setback last night, with recruit Inoke Ratu suspended for two matches.
Ratu, 24, will miss clashes against top-five hopefuls Koroit and Portland.
The former rugby league and rugby union player pleaded guilty to striking at an independent tribunal after four Warrnambool and District Umpires Association officials reported him during the match against Cobden on Saturday.
Ratu admitted striking Cobden’s Leigh Rosolin to the head with his right hand during an off-the-ball incident in the second quarter at Friendly Societies’ Park.
Both players said the confrontation happened after Ratu went to tackle or bump Bomber Paul Hinkley.
Rosolin believed contact was late and went to Ratu to “remonstrate” and “fly the flag”.
The Cobden player said he went to bump Ratu and the pair hit front on.
Ratu said he felt he was still on the ground from the Hinkley incident when he felt a knock to his eye from Rosolin.
“I don’t know if it was knuckle, arm or elbow,” he said. “I thought it was a punch. I thought he was coming with some intention.” Both players agreed Rosolin was struck once to the head.
The umpires said they saw more than one punch thrown, with some missing the target.
Central umpire Geoff Barker said he saw “a flurry of punches”.
Barker and fellow central umpire Alastair Steele showed Ratu a yellow card.
Both believed the incident warranted more than a one-week set penalty but that the force and intent was not sufficient to deserve a red card. Rosolin, who said he couldn’t recall hitting Ratu high, was not injured and played on.
“It wasn’t severe. No damage was done,” he said.
Four umpires — Barker, Steele, boundaries Mark Hutchins and Matthew Trotter — gave evidence.
South Warrnambool player advocate Kevin Mullins asked all four whether they conferred about ticking the box to send Ratu to the tribunal, with varying responses.
Trotter said he “was told to tick everything so I did what I was told”.
Barker and Hutchins said they decided on their own accord, while Steele said he discussed it with Barker.
Before proceedings, Mullins argued Ratu should have been offered a set penalty on the day.
In summary, Mullins said the tribunal should consider Ratu’s “impeccable sporting record”, that he admitted guilt and was facing a tribunal for the first time.