Former Queensland Origin representative Owen Cunningham has spoken out about his involvement in Friday night's ugly Magic Round brawl, claiming he had "never seen anything like" the scenes found in Suncorp Stadium's stands.
Attending the festival of footy with his two sons to see his former side Manly get shut out 38-0 by the burgeoning Broncos, the 55-year-old was caught up in the violence when assailants sitting behind his family began mouthing off.
“There were about eight of them … it was a f***en' disgrace,” the former Sea Eagle told News Corp.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It was like they were there for a stink, not the football.
“My oldest boy Ethan was sitting with his girlfriend and they were making some derogatory comments towards her.
“Then it started and my bloke got kinged (king hit) between the eyes. It was shocking.”
As seen in a video gone viral, Cunningham - in a sling as he recovered from shoulder surgery - was sent sprawling when members of the crowd clad in Cronulla, Parramatta and Newcastle jerseys took aim at his offspring.
— Mick kelly (@mick_kelly1) May 14, 2022
With his left-arm incapacitated, the 276-game top-level representative was left helpless as members of his party were instead left to jump to his son's aid.
“If they hadn’t gone in Ethan could have finished up in a coma,” Cunningham said.
“It was frightening with their blokes coming down two sets of seats to get involved.
“They weren’t there to break it up.
“We got escorted out and took Ethan straight to hospital.
“He had blood pissing down his face. The bloke who hit him must have had a ring on.
“They also broke his sinus bone so he can’t fly home to Townsville for university.”
While the NRL has stated post-brawl that they would be ramping up their security processes for the remainder of the rain-soaked weekend, the father and former first-grader claimed more had to be done to make the event safer.
“As soon as we sat down I was worried,” Cunningham added.
“There was something in the air giving me a bad feel. They were just smart arses. There were at least eight of them and four of us.
“And they were drunk.
“Seriously they’ve got to look at the grog distribution at that event.
“Kids don’t need to see this sort of stuff. It was frightening and it was disgusting.”
The identities of the plethora of assailants have not been made public knowledge, however, Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan has gone on the front foot and called for life bans for those known to have caused harm in the fracas.
“I hope those people are not just dealt with by the legal authorities through police and the courts but I hope that they’re banned for life from the stadium,” Ryan claimed in the wake of the game's latest black-eye.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo echoed Ryan and Cunningham's views, stating on 2GB radio that the rot from inebriated fans was something that would be stamped out.
“It’s just so disappointing,” Abdo said.
“The behaviour is completely unacceptable and it won’t be tolerated.
“We’ve been working this morning with stadium security and with police.
“We want to take the strongest possible action that we can to deal with these individuals.”