Packer got poor Warriors character reference
AARON LAWTON AND CHRIS BARCLAY
Security camera footage of Russell Packer's drunken attack on an ex-pat New Zealander helped convince the NRL not to register his playing contract with the Newcastle Knights, while the Kiwis prop also received a less-than-flattering character assessment from his former club.
Details of the NRL's investigation into Packer's assault of a 22-year-old Aucklander in the Sydney CBD in November emerged yesterday, as the father of two remained in custody pending an appeal against a two-year jail term imposed on Monday.
The NRL refused to register Packer's four-year contract with the Knights - a deal thought to be worth A$1 million (NZ$1.077m) - last month, before the 24-year-old pleaded guilty to assaulting Enoka Lester Time.
NRL chief operating officer Jim Doyle - a former CEO of the New Zealand Rugby League - broke the organisation's silence while holidaying in New Zealand, saying discussions with police and feedback from the Warriors formed the basis of the decision.
"When the incident occurred, we got hold of the police, we talked to them, we got all the facts, the police report and we obviously contacted his previous club, the Warriors, and asked them for a report," said Doyle, who also heads the NRL's Integrity Unit.
"If we have an incident with a player, we ask for his previous history as anyone would do. We got that from the Warriors and we felt that he wasn't a fit and proper person to be registered."
Packer played 110 games for the Warriors over six seasons and never faced criminal charges while at Mt Smart, although his final year was tarnished when he was caught urinating on Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium before a game against the Broncos last June - an indiscretion that drew a $A15,000 fine.
Failing to register Packer's contract would have forced the front rower to sit out the 2014 season - barring a change of heart by the NRL - though that stand down is likely to be superseded by the judicial system of New South Wales.
Unless Packer's legal team succeeds in overturning or significantly reducing his sentence when an appeal is considered on February 11, the two-test Kiwi international's career is effectively over.
If the sentence stands or even if it is reduced to 12 months, Packer will fail the Department of Immigration and Border Security's character test and have his special category visa - for New Zealanders living in Australia - cancelled under section 501 of the Migration Act 1958.
New Zealand citizens in Australian prisons automatically have their cases assessed nearing the end of their sentences, though if the term is a year or more a department spokesperson said they would be deported "barring an unusual set of circumstances."
The NRL has the power to take further action against Packer though Doyle said that was dependent on the court process.
"He has admitted guilt, and now they are still going through the process to finalise what the sentence will be.
"We will wait and see how that evolves."
Meanwhile, Time spoke publicly for the first time yesterday, telling The New Zealand Herald he was punched by Packer following a dispute over cigarettes.
Time, who was in a neck brace for a fortnight after being stomped on the face, said he did not retaliate when punched and never asked for charges to be laid.
He said he regretted posting a Facebook status update with unfavourable jail references about Packer - a reaction that drew condemnation from supporters of his assailant.
"Even though he did that to me, I honestly feel for his missus and kids," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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