Kiwis facing penalty over 'granny-gate' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Kiwis facing penalty over 'granny-gate'

By Steve Jancetic 31/10/2006 06:41:24 PM Comments (0)

New Zealand has been given 24 hours to explain why it should not be docked its only two Tri-Nations points for fielding former Queensland Origin hooker Nathan Fien.

Mt Isa-born Fien's eligibility was brought into question after it was revealed his only ancestral link to New Zealand was through his great grandmother and not a grandparent - as dictated by tournament rules.

Australian coach Ricky Stuart added fuel to the fire when he accused the Kiwis of knowingly breaking the rules after Fien made his debut off the bench against the Kangaroos at Telstra Dome before being elevated to the starting line-up for Saturday night's 18-14 win over Great Britain at Christchurch.

The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) executive committee held a hastily convened conference call on Tuesday where it decided to give the Kiwis until Wednesday to explain their actions, with a ruling expected the following day.

One of the penalties available to the RLIF would be stripping the Kiwis of their two competition points, which could severely impact their chances of making the final given they have only one preliminary match remaining.

Great Britain coach Brian Noble, whose Lions side stands to gain most from any docking of points, said he would leave it in the hands of the game's administrators to sort out.

"I would personally have rather earned the points with a win but the rules are rules, if somebody shouldn't be in the team it's an issue isn't it," Noble said.

"I hope some good answers come out of New Zealand, if not, sometimes you've got to take things on the chin.

"New Zealand have been give until five o'clock (NZ time) tomorrow to put their case forward and that will be for them to justify what they've done or what they haven't done, not me.

"I think it's something for the New Zealanders to convince everybody else of."

NZRL chairman Selwyn Bennett backed down from his earlier threat to boycott the Kiwis' remaining match against the Brits in Wellington on Saturday week if they were stripped of any points.

"It's very emotional and you do say things on the spur of the moment," Bennett told Radio New Zealand.

"You get very heated when they threaten your team, the Kiwis are our national team, and I'll defend them to the end."

Weighing into the debate, Kangaroos mentor Stuart accused the Kiwis of deliberately fielding an illegible player and called for eligibility rules to be tightened.

Asked whether New Zealand had brought embarrassment onto the game through the incident, Stuart said the Kiwis would be the only ones left red faced.

"I think it's more of an embarrassment to New Zealand having to pick Australian players," Stuart said.

"I'd be very embarrassed if I was a Kiwi player and also the fact I think they probably knew about it before he even took the field, that was probably more the embarrassing part of it.

"The rules should be tightened and be more professional about it but if they're electing to play Australians in their national team, that's their decision."

The Kiwis have until 3pm (AEDT) on Wednesday to make their submission.

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