Ex-All Black 'kicked victim', court told

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 18/10/2012

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A prisoner serving six years for assault yesterday named former Taranaki All Black Bryce Robins as the main aggressor in the case.

From the witness box in the New Plymouth District Court, Noel Bland said he had not spoken out at the time for fear of losing his job at Riverlands, where Robins was his supervisor.

He was giving evidence in the trial of Eltham labourer Robert Douglas Clement, 47, who has pleaded not guilty to wounding Michael John Hardgrave with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm.

Bland was found guilty of the same serious assault charge at a trial last year. It involved a fracas at Eltham's Central Tavern, owned at the time by Robins.

Two years ago Robins was convicted of assaulting another man during the same incident and ordered to pay $1000 reparation.

It is understood Robins, who played four times for the All Blacks in 1985, is now living in Australia and had not been sought to give evidence at this trial.

Mr Hardgrave's GP has told the court that his patient has been left with permanent head injuries after the Bridge St attack two years ago.

The Crown alleges that Mr Hardgrave was assaulted and his cheek bones fractured after he broke two windows in the pub because he was told to leave after arguing with Robins.

On the second day of the trial yesterday, Bland who was wearing prisoner's green prison clothes, said he had lied to police when first interviewed in April two years ago.

Clement's counsel, Julian Hannam, accused Bland of painting a black picture of his client and Robins in order to make himself look better.

Bland disagreed, saying he was stupid to keep quiet.

"I should have given evidence at my trial and spoken the truth," he said.

Robins was his friend and his supervisor at his Riverlands workplace, Bland said.

Bland acknowledged that he knew Robins was "an ex-All Black and a big man in Eltham".

Bland agreed Robins drove him to his lawyer's offices in New Plymouth and sat in with him to hear what was said.

"He wanted to stay in the room with you because you knew something he'd done. You could get him in trouble if you told the whole story," Mr Hannam said.

"Yes," Bland agreed.

And also get Clement in trouble, Mr Hannam said.

"I put it to you, all the damage done to Hardgrave was done by yourself and Bryce Robins," Mr Hannam said.

"Rubbish," Bland replied.

He denied he had blamed the other two men to get himself out of prison.

"You know, I wouldn't put my mates in this position," Bland commented.

Earlier, Bland told Crown prosecutor Justin Marinovich how Mr Hardgrave had him on the ground during a fight.

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Clement rushed out of the pub and pulled Mr Hardgrave off him, Bland said.

He got up and Clement was on top of Mr Hardgrave punching him in the head with both fists, Bland said.

Robins came out the pub's office and kicked Mr Hardgrave in the head. Robins also punched Jason Dunlop, Hardgrave's mate.

Mr Marinovich asked Bland why he had kept quiet.

Bland's voice choked up, and he wept as he said he was worried about losing both his job and his life.

He spoke up because Clement had involved his daughter after Bland's trial, telling her what had actually happened on the night.

Bland said he had nothing to gain from giving evidence.

The trial continues today.

- Taranaki Daily News

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