AFL manager jailed for grooming teen player

Last updated 15:56 11/07/2014

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An ex-Aussie Football League manager who sent nude photos to a 13-year-old player will spend a year behind bars.

Mark Patrick Heaney was working as a regional development  manager for the code in northern NSW last year when he logged onto Facebook and began chatting up a 13-year-old he'd coached.

''He instigated a conversation that was of a sexual or explicit  nature and sent the child a number of images of himself,'' Downing Centre District Court judge Laura Wells said at his sentencing.

One picture showed Heaney lying down naked with one hand over his penis, according to the boy, though Heaney urged him to delete the pictures. The 43-year-old also suggested he might send photographs of the  teenager to a male modelling agent during an online chat that  lasted till 4.30am.

But the boy alerted his parents and the next time Heaney logged  on, he found himself unknowingly chatting with an undercover police  officer.

The former PE teacher pleaded guilty to a grooming charge over  his first online encounter with the boy in February 2013 and a  series of later interactions with child abuse investigators posing as the teenager.

Judge Wells said that during one online chat with an undercover officer, Heaney suggested he and the boy compare penis sizes. The pair also discussed meeting up at a hotel Heaney frequented, where he said they could have an ejaculation contest.

''Sticking with the sporting theme, I think we'll set up a target  and see who can shoot the furthest,'' Heaney said. Asked how much body contact there would be, Heaney replied:  ''We're both footballers, mate. We can handle a bit.''

He quizzed the ''boy'' about his sexual experiences and continued to send pictures of himself but appeared wary, making comments such as ''Prob shouldn't have sent that hey. You sure you're alone?''

In one exchange, Heaney said: ''Are you tossing right now?'' and when asked if he would mind if that were the case, ''the accused  said 'yes', that he needed a camera, so he could look him in the  eye''.

Although the 13-year-old was not involved in most of the chats,  his father said he had ''withdrawn emotionally'' since the first  incident and he no longer played AFL.

Barrister Anthony Bellanto QC, representing Heaney, said the child had dropped out of the sport before the grooming incident. Judge Wells said she accepted Heaney never intended to go  through with the mooted hotel meeting and had sought psychiatric help following the incidents. She has handed him an 18-month total sentence with a July 2015 release date.

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Heaney, who was supported in court by his parents, showed no  reaction as the sentence came down.

- AAP

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