An entire junior Australian rugby league team was banned from playing until at least 2016 after three of them abused, threatened and chased a referee, The (Sydney) Daily Telegraph reported Friday.
All 20 members of the under-18s Macarthur Saints -- based west of Sydney, New South Wales (NSW) -- received bans last week ranging from five years to life for the incident, which the Western Suburbs Junior Rugby League described as "the worst display of behavior in this district."
But five of the suspensions -- which were imposed without a hearing because of the extraordinary circumstances -- have since been overturned on appeal.
The remaining 15 players and officials are not permitted to have any role in the code, nor set foot on a junior rugby league field until their bans expire.
The suspensions are among the heaviest on record in NSW junior sport and have attracted a furious response from the majority of the team, who claim their football futures have now been destroyed because of the actions of just three players.
One of the Saints players said the incident looked worse than it actually was because while three players were chasing the referee, the rest of the team were actually chasing those three players to calm them down.