Former player Matt Nean sought to have his 20-year ban lifted after contacting a referee in 2016

Former rugby league player Matthew Nean is still trying to clear his name after receiving a 20-year ban in 2016 for contacting a referee.

The incident happened during a Group 4 grand final between the West Tamworth Lions and North Tamworth and Nean was initially suspended for 18 weeks.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Matthew Nean Cops 20 year ban for it.

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However, Nean believed the contact with referee James Brown was accidental and also insignificant and decided to challenge the suspension, which he felt was particularly severe.

He pleaded not guilty at a court hearing, but was found guilty and was then told he would not be able to play again until 2036.

The grand final was fiery as Nean’s brother Sean was charged with headbutting an opposing player. And the brothers were also sent off in the 2015 grand final, with Matt suffering a 14-week ban and Sean 10.

Matthew Nean and Ref James Brown during a Rugby League Grand Final in 2016 for West Tamworth Lions. Recognition: screenshot

At the 2016 hearing, Nean was labeled a “repeat offender.”

Now, at 31, he’s running out of time to lift the ban.

The suspension also prevents him from watching his children play rugby league or coaching rugby league at any level. He has three children – Kobhan, 13, Nixhan, 8, and Ainslee, 6 – with two boys reportedly showing some talent for the game.

“I’m going to watch a game and get comfortable, put sunscreen on the kids and everything, and the next moment we have to go – someone patted me on the back and said I can’t be there,” Nean said The Sydney Morning Herald.

“I’m not trying to make a scene. I just want to watch my kids play.”

His lawyers asked NSWRL earlier this year to look into the incident and reconsider the decision, but NSWRL has so far refused to do so, according to SMH.

The SMH said, “His attorneys are currently evaluating whether to seek an extension of the statute of limitations to file Supreme Court lawsuits.”

Nean said when he first enforced the 20-year ban he thought it was “a joke”.

The 2016 Grand Final between the West Tamworth Lions and North Tamworth was a fiery affair. Recognition: screenshot

“I couldn’t believe what had happened. I was just trying to deal with it. I reckon [that night] I cried a sleepless night.”

Whilst challenging the first ban in 2016: Country Rugby League boss Terry Quinn said: “There is absolutely zero tolerance for this type of offense at any level throughout the game, be it physical contact or verbal abuse by our match officials.

“In the case of Matt Nean, you are talking about a repeat offender who has just returned from a lengthy suspension for a similar offence.

“It is unjustifiable behavior that deserves the harshest penalties.”

A former Nean team-mate, Chris Hunt, said: “Being an Aboriginal guy myself, football is life, you know. That’s all we grew up with and it gave us that bit of stability and structure.

“He lost all of that with Matt.”

Dani Laidley returns to the sporting spotlight.

Dani Laidley returns to the sporting spotlight. Former player Matt Nean sought to have his 20-year ban lifted after contacting a referee in 2016

James Brien

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