Russell Packer questioned over alleged assault

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 18:55 26/11/2013
Russell Packer
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
NEW HOME: Russell Packer in action for the Auckland Vulcans.

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Former New Zealand Warriors prop Russell Packer has been quizzed by police in relation to an alleged assault in the Sydney CBD.

The questioning is another potential black eye for the code after revelations Reni Maitua had an altercation with a taxi driver and Richie Fa'aoso drove drunk after a domestic disturbance.

Former Kiwis international Packer, who left the Warriors for the Newcastle Knights at the end of last season, is understood to have been briefly interviewed by detectives in Newcastle today. They asked him about an incident that reportedly left a 22-year-old western Sydney man unconscious in a main pedestrian thoroughfare.

The Newcastle Herald reported Packer was not formally interviewed. No charges had been laid.

The Knights confirmed in a statement issued today that they were "aware of a matter involving Russell Packer on Friday night in Sydney".

"The NRL has been advised and the NRL integrity unit is investigating.

"The club will co-operate with the police and the NRL.

"Until all investigations are complete, the club will make no further comment."

Packer made 110 appearances for the Warriors but had a low-key final season at Mt Smart - he came to prominence only after a television camera caught him urinating on Suncorp Stadium before kickoff in a game against the Brisbane Broncos in June.

The NRL Integrity Unit is reviewing the incident involving Packer and separate issues involving new Bulldogs recruit Maitua and Manly forward Fa'aoso - meaning NRL chief operating officer, and former NZRL boss, Jim Doyle faces a busy workload.

Maitua was today suspended by the Bulldogs - the club that offered the former Kangaroos player a lifeline after he was cut by Parramatta - in response to being charged with assault.

It is understood the incident involved a taxi driver after Maitua left Kings Cross in the early yesterday.

Maitua today apologised via Twitter, saying: "Deeply apologetic to the gentlemen involved, Canterbury, the fans, my family and the game in general.

"I have no excuses for my poor behaviour and will accept any punishment handed to me from the Powers to be. I was charged w(ith) common assault for pushing the gentleman's arm, by no means is that acceptable but certainly didn't strike anyone. Again I am truly sorry to everyone I have let down."

The Bulldogs, headed by former Netball New Zealand chief executive Raelene Castle, said in a statement the matter had been referred to the unit and they would comment further on it once investigations were completed.

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Fa'aoso was arrested on Sunday and charged with malicious damage, failure to stop a vehicle and mid-range drink-driving.

The 29-year-old, who is recovering from a fractured neck that prevented him playing the NRL Grand Final against the Sydney Roosters, apparently had an argument with his wife, damaged a door and window at their home and then drove after her when she fled.

Fa'aoso's is the third high-profile drink-driving case involving NRL players this year after cases involving New Zealand-born Kangaroos prop James Tamou and Parramatta forward Mitch Allgood.

However, it is the Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) issued to Fa'aoso that embarrasses the code, given the incident unfolded hours before NRL stars joined the White Ribbon march in Sydney - a campaign aimed at eliminating violence against women.

Doyle, meanwhile, warned all players and clubs of the need for consequences in relation to any breaches of the NRL's Code of Conduct.
"The overwhelming majority of our players are fantastic ambassadors both for the game and the community. It is all the more important, therefore, that we send clear messages in relation to off-field misbehaviour.

"We will always work with players in supporting them in terms of welfare and education but the issue of personal responsibility has to remain." 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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