Referee walks off after abuse in Thistles vs Villa game
LEADING referee Stuart Bradley marched off the field early in the second half of Lismore Thistles' home game against Alstonville in Far North Coast premier league soccer on Saturday, causing the match to be abandoned.
It will bring the issue of referee abuse by players to centre stage.
Widely respected as one of the best officials in the league, Bradley won the Referee of the Year award in 2012 and 2014.
But after several warnings to players, the usually good- humoured Bradley reached his breaking point, taking the unprecedented step of leaving the field, causing confusion among players and spectators.
At the time the score was 1-all with goals from Villa's Dan Baxter and Thistles' Zac Wilson.
A decision is yet to be made on whether the game will be replayed or if the result will stand.
A suggestion that linesman Craig Hamshaw take over as referee was rejected, with Football FNC general manager Steve Mackney ruling out that option.
"We are unable to comment due to an inability to contact the referee involved, but it is very rare for a referee to abandon a game so abruptly and without any incident being clearly identified by those present," Mackney said.
"We suspect the action has not been prompted only by an incident in one single match, and our concern is first and foremost for the wellbeing of the referee."
Second-placed Richmond Rovers exacted revenge on bogey side Lismore Workers with a 5-1 home win.
Daniel Flynn scored twice, along with Andrew Casa-grande, top scorer Jake Heffernan and set play specialist Reid Brewer-Charles, in another solid effort from the major premiers
Jamie Hill scored for the Redmen, but after their fourth straight loss Workers' semi-final hopes are now in jeopardy.
Lennox Head has its sights set on a top-three finish after its fourth straight win, a 3-0 away result over struggling last-placed Ballina.
The Sharks are now outright third after another two goals from the league's top scorer Byron Milne and one from Aryan Freriechs gave them an emphatic win.
Goonellabah has moved to within a point of the top five with a 2-0 away win over danger side Casino.
A penalty from Matt Weir and a headed goal from Kurt Stephens gave the Hornets the win, with strong games from Weir, Matt Graham and Jason Woollett.
Byron Bay remains the undefeated league leader after a 9-0 home thrashing of local rival Bangalow.
There were hat-tricks for James Tomlinson and Tyson Kaye, along with two goals from Connor Cannon and one to Jonathan Pierce.