Rugby league legend Paul Gallen has criticised the pitch invaders during a game between the Warriors and Broncos at Napier on Saturday. The NRL should no longer take games to New Zealand if fans cannot behave, says Gallen. Despite the Warriors losing to a weakened Broncos side, the multiple pitch invasions by fans attracted most attention on social media after the game.
The interruptions angered Gallen, who supports bringing more rugby league games to New Zealand since the pandemic. On Nine’s Sunday Footy Show, he condemned the behaviour of the crowd: “I’ve been a big advocate for having as much rugby league over in New Zealand as we possibly can, being able to take games all around the country. But the way that crowd behaved last night, it’s not going to be possible.”
The NRL cannot allow more games in New Zealand if fans continue to act inappropriately, Gallen believes. He cited the example of three or four pitch invaders in one night, which reflects poorly on the professional league: “It was terrible behaviour…just a stupid thing to do, just dumb.”
Former All Black Israel Dagg shares Gallen’s disappointment and called on Kiwi crowds to boo the pitch invaders instead of cheering them. Meanwhile, the New Zealand captain Tohu Harris expressed frustration with the pitch invaders at Napier, stating: “It gets really annoying, especially when we’re trying to get ourselves back into the game.”
The Warriors encountered similar problems during their first game of the season against Newcastle, with 13 pitch invasions that led to injuries to some security guards. Security boss Ben Wooding stated that if the trend continues in New Zealand, sports events might need to be viewed differently. He doesn’t believe anyone wants big cages to surround fields or security guards standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Wooding added that staff also deserve to be safe, not only fans and players: “We’re putting these events on alongside the stadiums, and we’re focused on the safety of fans, players and I think we should be thinking about our staff as well who are in the firing line.”
Later, the police arrested 12 people who invaded McLean Park in the last ten minutes of the match on Saturday. Pitch invasion is illegal in New Zealand and carries a maximum fine of $5000 or a three-month prison sentence.