I've forgiven him: DWZ
Panthers winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak says he has forgiven the St Marys official who grabbed him by the throat during an under-12s match and insists the unsavoury incident won't deter him from volunteering at junior rugby league matches in the future.
The official has since been handed a lifetime ban and Watene-Zelezniak hopes the rest of the rugby league world can follow his lead and forgive the trainer for the physical alteration.
"It's going to take a lot more than that for me to stop helping out the junior league and me remembering where I came from," the 21-year-old said on Monday.
"On the morning of the game I like to forget about myself and do something for someone else. It puts me in a good mind frame for the game. On that Saturday it didn't put me in a good mind frame.
"I wasn't going down there to be the tough judge, but no one else wanted to do it and I was just sitting there so I thought that was my thing that I could do for someone else.
"Everyone has their bad days and it happened to be that guy's bad day on that Saturday and I happened to be the trigger. I've forgiven him so hopefully he goes on and does what he does in his life.
"He had a bad day, everyone's had a bad day, I've had some bad days so it was just unlucky that I had to be that trigger on that day.
"I did speak to a few people from the St Marys club and he was apologetic to me. I'm very sorry for the way it's come out in the media and the way he's been put down by people. That's not what I wanted. If I can forgive him then everyone else can forgive him."
The devout Mormon has established himself as one of the cleanest guys in the game – both on and off the field – and while it would have been natural for him to retaliate, the Kiwi international chose to be the bigger man.
"Obviously when someone grabs you by the throat, you want to do something about it, but the way I've grown up with my beliefs, it was a no-brainer to let it go and let everyone else deal with it," he said.
"What kind of guy would I be if I couldn't forgive anyone? I'd be depressed every day and I'd be angry because it’s harder to hate someone than it is to forgive them."
At a time when referees are under the microscope more than ever, Watene-Zelezniak said the incident helped him appreciate just how hard it is to be an official in the modern era.
"I came off the field and thought if that can happen in the 12s then imagine what the NRL referees and touch judges get," he said.
'I've always had a lot of respect for them because without them, the game can't function. My hat goes off to them and the things that they cop."