Player out after Timaru assault

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 01:00 03/09/2012

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An assault outside a Timaru bar yesterday has led to a "season-ending" injury for 23-year-old East Coast first-five Ben Parkes.

Coach Ngarimu Simpkins said the side was still in a state of shock about the incident.

"Ben is a lovely, vibrant young man. He is a dedicated member of the team. We're quite shocked something like this could happen to him," he said.

Mr Parkes was assaulted at about 3am yesterday morning outside Malbas Timaru in Stafford St. Mr Simpkins said Mr Parkes received a broken jaw.

"He's lost a few teeth. It's a season-ending injury," Mr Simpkins said.

East Coast played South Canterbury at Alpine Energy Stadium in the Heartland Rugby Championship on Saturday.

South Canterbury won 37-9.

Timaru Sergeant Kevin McErlain said police were still conducting inquiries, and wanted to speak to a person of interest.

"We don't suspect there was any weapon involved. It was over in a matter of minutes."

Mr McErlain said police had obtained CCTV footage of the incident, but would like anyone with information about the assault to contact police. He said a large crowd was in the vicinity, having just left an adjacent nightclub.

Early reports on Radio Live suggested the attack was racially motivated, but Mr McErlain said that claim was totally unsubstantiated.

Mr Simpkins said police informed the other teammates about the assault shortly after it occurred. "Most of us were back at the hotel, none of the players saw it, but I heard it involved some guys giving Ben a kicking. I understand Ben was drinking with a South Canterbury player who was a friend of his," he said.

Mr Parkes was taken from Timaru to Christchurch Hospital yesterday. Hospital staff would not give an update on his condition last night, saying he had requested "total privacy" from the media.

Mr Simpkins said Mr Parkes' father, who also attended the match, travelled to Christchurch Hospital to be by his son's side.

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- The Timaru Herald

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