Rugby league star Blake Ferguson has been convicted of indecently assaulting a woman at a Cronulla nightclub while out celebrating his State of Origin selection.
Despite claiming he only touched the upper thigh of the woman in a case of mistaken identity, Ferguson was found guilty of grabbing her vagina under her skirt at the 2230 nightclub.
Ferguson's cousin, boxer Anthony Mundine, and former Canberra Raiders teammate Josh Dugan were two star witnesses for Ferguson at the hearing at Sutherland Local Court on Wednesday.
The former provided a character reference, saying it was not in Ferguson's nature to treat women disrespectfully. The latter described how the pair often had women throwing themselves at them when they hit the town.
The court heard that Ferguson and Dugan started their night at Northies in Cronulla before moving on to 2230, where CCTV footage showed them drinking beers, hugging and talking to several women and posing for photos.
He touched the vagina of a woman in a split-second encounter, before she pushed him away.
Ferguson made an apology in court and said he mistook the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, for another blonde he had hooked up with earlier in the night at Northies.
"I always liked blonde girls because I lived in Cronulla for a long time," he said.
"I would like to say sorry to [the victim], I would never touch her in a sexual way. I'm really sorry I mistaked [sic] her for the girl I hooked up with at Northies. I would never touch a girl like that if I didn't know them at an intimate level."
However Magistrate Jacqueline Trad rejected his story, saying there was no evidence to support it and, in any case, he showed no regard for the woman's consent.
He took "no steps whatsoever to consider whether consent was being given and in that sense, he was reckless," she said.
Prosecutor Rick Mansley argued the "mistaken identity" excuse was a "recent invention" made up in court without a "scintilla" of evidence.
Ferguson's lawyer, Adam Houda, asked for the sentencing to be adjourned to allow for an assessment on mental health issues, which he said had been raised by Ferguson moments before the judgment.
The court heard Ferguson had struggled to deal with fame after being catapulted into professional rugby league after troubled upbringing.
He went to six schools and was raised by his step-grandparents because his parents were drug addicts.
"It was quite difficult getting, basically, girls thrown at me," he said. "I still haven't ... come to terms with all the attention with, like, photos and signatures and all that."
Dragons player Josh Dugan gave evidence that the pair were often mobbed by female fans.
["There is] no shortage of girls making advances at you?" Mr Houda asked Dugan. "Not at all," he replied.
Magistrate Jacqueline Trad rejected Mr Houda's accusations that the victim of the assault was taking advantage of Ferguson's fame or had an unreliable memory of the incident because she was "highly intoxicated" from drinking three vodkas, one cider and two shots at Northies.
Ferguson was dropped from the Origin squad and later from the Raiders for his off-field performance. He has not signed with another club.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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