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Bountygate scandal hits rugby … under-14 youth rugby, that is (video)

May 18, 2012, 10:09 AM EDT

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Coaches for a Northern California youth rugby team of 13- and 14-year-olds have been accused of operating a bounty system in which players were given up to $30 for injuring opponents during matches. The really creepy part? When the scheme was exposed, the coaches allegedly called a team meeting and told their players to keep quiet about the bounties, ‘or else.’

Why is it that when the NFL attempts to crack down on things like this, it only seems to make the problem worse at the youth level? I guess any bounty publicity is good bounty publicity.

The program in question is the Martinez Raptors, which caters to boys as young as 8 — although there is no indication that any other team was involved except the 14-under squad. KGO-San Francisco is reporting that Wesley Van Tonder and his son, Wes Jr., the head coach and assistant coach, respectively, for the Raptors, have been banned from coaching the club they founded last year. The bounty scheme was first uncovered when one of the Raptors’ players asked about money during a match. Oops.

“One of the players hit our player hard which we thought was fine and he turned to his coach and said, ‘How was that coach? Is that good enough for the money?’” said president of Lamorinda Rugby, Tony McKenzie.

The Lamorinda president complained to the league’s governing body, the Northern California Youth Rugby Association (NCYRA).

“It was $20 or $30, but from a kid’s perspective whether it’s $5 or $500, it’s a motivation and that’s just not appropriate,” said NCYRA disciplinary chairman Matt Eason.

And if there’s one thing worse than offering kids money to injure other kids, it’s threatening your kids to keep quiet about it. Allegedly, that’s what happened here.

Eason held a hearing by conference call, and he says the Van Tonders through an attorney denied ever offering a bounty.

But a player on the Raptors’ under-14 team and his father came forward to say it’s true — that the Van Tonders offered that boy and his teammates money for hits that would knock Lamorinda players out of the game.

“And the father was particularly upset that once the investigation began that apparently there had been a meeting of some sort telling the kids, ‘Don’t say anything about it or else,’ and ‘or else’ was kind of left open,” said Eason.