Our kids are in hospital, parents question AFL body

Nambour Under 13s AFL player James Smith, 11, is admitted to Nambour General Hospital after being knocked unconscious in a match at Pomona on June 7, 2015. Photo Contributed
Nambour Under 13s AFL player James Smith, 11, is admitted to Nambour General Hospital after being knocked unconscious in a match at Pomona on June 7, 2015. Photo Contributed

PARENTS feel they have been shirtfronted by AFL Sunshine Coast Juniors management committee in its handling of rough play in a game in which three kids were hospitalised.

Mother Amber Smith is disillusioned and angry with the local governing body of the sport after her son James (pictured) and two of his Nambour Blues Under 13 teammates ended up in Nambour General Hospital.

Her concerns stemmed from a game against Pomona on June 7 which was called off in the second quarter after James, 11, was knocked unconscious.

Teammate Max Vandenberg, 13, was already receiving attention for what turned out to be a ruptured spleen.

Max's mother Megan Vandenberg said the severity of that injury was not realised for a few hours after the match.

WE SAY: Safe sport discussion must occur for kids' sake

It resulted in Max spending a night in the intensive care unit and a further four days in a pediatrics ward.

Mrs Smith said when she and James arrived by ambulance at Nambour General Hospital she was surprised to see another Nambour player already there.

Nambour Under 13 player Max Vandenberg recuperates from a ruptured spleen in Nambour General Hospital
Nambour Under 13 player Max Vandenberg recuperates from a ruptured spleen in Nambour General Hospital Contributed

His parents had taken him after the boy passed out in the car as they drove away from the abandoned match.

Mrs Smith and Mrs Vandenberg both believed their sons were the victims of rough, off-the-ball play.

They also said the style of play was being encouraged from a section of Pomona supporters.

A parent of a Noosa Tigers Under 13 player, who did not want to be named, has raised similar complaints in the wake of a match played against Pomona the week before.

Although the parents' concerns all stemmed from matches against the same club, their main issue has been with the way their complaints were handled.

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Mrs Vandenberg said there had been no feedback and she feared young players weren't being discouraged from foul play.

"There is no future if this is the way you deal with things," Mrs Vandenberg said.

Mrs Smith said she realised her son was likely to be injured playing a contact sport.

"I've grown up with AFL, I'm not a newcomer to this."

But she was unhappy when she learned earlier this week the way the complaint had been handled.

"I want justice for these kids," she said.

Pomona and Districts Australian Football Club junior president Matthew Conquest said the coaching and parent group at the club always took a positive approach towards the game.

"We believe in positive coaching of our children in the AFL game and to play in good sportsmanship," Mr Conquest said.

He said the club strived to provide a safe and friendly environment for all participants.

"Other than the investigation conducted into the match on Sunday, June 7, we have not received any complaints from any opposition clubs nor has any issue been raised by AFL Sunshine Coast Juniors.

"The welfare of all children playing our game is our highest priority and we follow the AFL's player, coach and spectator codes of conduct."

AFL Sunshine Coast Juniors management committee general manager Cherie Brockwell said an incident report was filled out by the ground marshall and an umpire after the match between Nambour and Pomona was called off.

Ms Brockwell said an independent investigator was appointed by AFL Queensland after Nambour officials requested an investigation into incidents from the match.

"The investigator spoke to players and witnesses from both clubs, including the match day umpire to ascertain the details of each incident," Ms Brockwell said.

She said a player alleged to have engaged in rough play was found to have not breached the game's rules and was found not guilty, while a player alleged to have spear tackled another player was found to have breached the rules and was found guilty.

"In reference to the 7 June match, the AFL Sunshine Coast Juniors management committee will determine if any sanctions for either club will apply."

She said no formal complaint was lodged by the Noosa Australian Football Club in regard to the May 31 match.

"AFL Sunshine Coast Juniors strictly enforce the AFL's Player, Coach and Spectator Codes of Conduct.

"Once the League receives a formal complaint from a League-appointed umpire or one of our clubs, breaches are dealt with via the way of sanctions or referred to our state body for further action."

Topics:  afl editors picks injury kids sport

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