A New Plymouth bar manager has described an alleged attack involving Southland Sharks basketball players as the scariest thing he has experienced.
Crowded House duty manager Max O'Leary said three security staff suffered a variety of injuries in the alleged attack, which happened shortly after 2.30am yesterday.
Three Southland Sharks basketballers have been arrested and charged with assault with intent to injure.
Police have revealed details of the alleged attack because they are calling for witnesses.
The three players, aged 19, 21 and 28, have been granted police bail but must appear in the New Plymouth District Court on Wednesday.
"It would be the most scariest thing I've seen in 6 years working at Crowded House," O'Leary said.
The alleged attack is believed to have started after the players were denied entry into the bar because one of the group could not provide identification.
"It was an all-in brawl at the front of the bar," O'Leary said.
"We had five of our staff involved in it, plus a few others were trying to help.
"It was a cowardly attack, basically."
One bouncer was "king hit" and knocked unconscious, another was allegedly kicked repeatedly in the head and another suffered cuts to his face.
O'Leary was also attacked and punched in the chest.
It took police only three or four minutes to arrive at the scene at which point the players allegedly fled up Devon St before they were arrested.
"By the time they [police] arrived most of them had run off," O'Leary said.
"They headed off towards the Devon Hotel, although a few of them were in car parks."
Crowded House staff had been told the Southland players were denied entry to several other bars in the city.
The alleged incident happened several hours after the Southland Sharks had defeated the Taranaki Mountain Airs after a last second basket in the National Basketball League match.
Although only three players have been charged, O'Leary alleged "virtually the whole team" got involved.
The Southland Sharks flew out of New Plymouth at 8am yesterday.
A witness to the incident, who did not want to be named, described the "king hit" outside Crowded House as "a cowardly vicious, nasty attack."
"It was 100 per cent unprovoked. It made me angry."
The man, who said he was the sober driver on the night, said he first saw two of the basketballers being denied entry to Our Place because they had no identification.
Coach Paul Henare was with the team at Our Place and was acting responsibly.
But the witness did not see him at Crowded House.
The Our Place bouncers were polite and doing their job as the law required in checking identifications, he said.
When the two were again rejected at Crowded House, one of the team king-hit the staff member then stomped on him on the ground, it was alleged.
The security staff were totally outnumbered when an all-out brawl involving all the team then broke out, he claimed.
"It was 10 or 11 against three to four security staff and one was female.
"They need to be held accountable."
Southland Sharks general manager Jill Bolger sounded emotionally deflated yesterday when contacted about the alleged incident.
She was in Wellington during the weekend for NBL meetings, as well as a family visit, and said she had limited information on the situation.
Bolger said she would wait until she was back in Invercargill to talk to everyone involved before making any decisions over how the Sharks organisation would respond to the off-field drama.
"Clearly it's very disappointing from our perspective that something like this would happen, and it is in the hands of the court system. We are just going to have to go through our processes.
"There will obviously be some very sorry people around the place at the moment. No matter what the result of the court hearing, it is disappointing."
Bolger said she did not believe the Sharks were a troubled team off the court or that they had a booze culture attached to it.
"I would have to say I have been very comfortable with the culture within the team. They are a championship winning side, you don't get to be that without having a good culture and good leadership," she said.
- Taranaki Daily News
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