Parramatta Eels management believe they have located the unruly fans who apparently racially abused Panthers prop Petero Civoniceva a the weekends game. With Eels officials confirming they will be banned for life unless they issue and official apology to the Penrith skipper.
Eels chiefs had been going through video footage of the weekends incident in which apparent ‘monkey chants’ were allegedly directed at the Fijian heritage of Civoniceva in Sunday’s nail-biting 22-16 NRL win to the Panthers at Parramatta Stadium.
Channel Nine assisted in supplying relevant video evidence and several witness statements from nearby fans that heard and saw the drama have helped the Eels management narrow down two “persons of interest” to NSW Police.
“We believe we have correct identification information on the attackers and I’ve passed that on to the police who are considering their next step,” Parramatta CEO Dennis Fitzgerald confirmed.
Once police have completed their investigations into the situation and if the suspects are confirmed to be in the wrong, the club will work with the NRL to determine the best penalty for the Eels supporters.
Fitzgerald was adamant the two supporters should immediately apologise to Civoniceva and said without this happening, a life ban from all NRL matches could be a real possibility for the two alleged racial attackers.
“If they don’t apologise there will be no reason for us to let them back in at all and I’m sure that the NRL would agree with that,” Fitzgerald said.
NRL COO Graham Annesley said the NRL would not make a move until the the police findings were finalized but commended both the Eels and others assisting with investigations for dealing with the matter quickly and efficiently.
“I think they’ve made fantastic progress, the stadium and the Eels and it’s all looking quite promising,” Annesley said.
Civoniceva, holds one of the best reputations in the NRL, has been given four days off by Penrith after also starring for Queensland in last Wednesday’s State of Origin decider. Petero is one of the genuine nice guys of the game and while some have hit-out at his strong reaction to the words; few could argue that resorting to racial abuse is simply unacceptable and no one should have to deal with it personally.
Petero went as far as issuing an apology to Eels officials and fans after beer was spilt when he reacted heavily to the verbal taunts by lashing out at the fence at the stadium near the offenders.
Fans and players have come out in support for Civoniceva, believing the Test hardman was well within his rights to react to the taunts.
“He’s got every right to be upset with those sort of comments,” Parramatta winger Jarryd Hayne said.
“It is surprising and sort of upsetting.
“I’m not too sure who said it, whether they were people that turn up every week or not … but further action needs to happen.
“We have a great fan base here and this comes back on Parramatta’s name.”
The incident has also upset officials in Fiji.
“It is sad that racism is still well and alive today,” Fiji National Rugby League chairman Peni Musunamasi said.
“We cannot even to imagine what Petero is feeling and thinking at present, he is very shy but humble and only loves to play.
“I think it’s fairly average really, for people to stoop that low.
“Drunk or emotional, no one should have to cop racially motivated comments because of the colour of their skin, those days are long gone.”