The Sydney Rugby Junior Union prevented an 11-year-old Australian from playing in a sevens tournament in New South Wales due to his size.
The boy’s mother, Ayla Hinekiteao, complained on social media about the union’s decision to stop her son Leo from playing in the tournament five weeks into the eight-week series.
‘Sorry for posting this Leo, but at the end of the day you are still A KID and CRYING because you don’t fully understand what is going on and why you cannot play is ALLOWED – 11 years old,’ she posted on Facebook.
‘Just before the whistle blew an official from Waratahs approached us to say the “big kid” can’t play no more. Love you heaps Leo, you are a great player and even better human full of amazing opportunities that will come later on in life – Australia will kick themselves when you play against them [with the] All Blacks.’
The New South Wales Rugby Union later defended the decision, releasing a statement saying the decision was in compliance with Rugby Australia’s age-size policy.
‘While it is not NSWRU or SJRU intention to prevent any player from participating in rugby, the player involved had been previously assessed in accordance with the policy and it was deemed he was required to compete in an older age division.
‘Despite several attempts to get in contact with all those involved, the matter was then required to be addressed at the competition in person.
‘We recognise that perhaps further attempts could have been taken to speak to all those involved – family, players and club – to minimise impact to the player, his teammates and the wider competition.’
‘We want to see the player involved stay part of our competition and we are continuing to work with the club to ensure he and his family can stay involved.