ON THE FIELD: Russell Packer in action for the Warriors.
ON THE FIELD: Russell Packer in action for the Warriors. RENEE MCKAYAAP

Packer to appeal jail sentence after attack

NEWCASTLE Knights recruit Russell Packer will appeal a two-year jail sentence handed down in a Sydney court yesterday.

Appearing in Downing Centre Local Court, the 24-year-old former Warriors forward pleaded guilty to an assault charge stemming from an incident in Sydney last year.

The court heard the New Zealander repeatedly punched a man and stomped on his head in the attack at Martin Place during a night out in November.

The incident left his 22-year-old victim unconscious with a fractured eye socket.

Packer's lawyers told the court the prop had subsequently undertaken counselling for anger management and alcohol issues, adding that while the assault was serious, it was not a king hit.

But the police prosecutor contended Packer had the chance to walk away from the fight, but proceeded to attack his victim even when he was unconscious on the ground.

Magistrate Greg Grogan said while Packer had not king hit the man, the community and courts were sick of alcohol-related violence.

He sentenced Packer to the maximum available penalty of a two-year fixed term. The outcome was clearly a surprise to both Packer and his legal team, who asked the court to reopen the sentence and then lodged an immediate appeal.

The legal team also made an application for bail after Magistrate Grogan initially refused that.

The appeal date has yet to be confirmed, according to a statement from the Knights.

Packer played 110 NRL games for the Warriors before signing a contract in October to join Newcastle.

The NRL, however, has refused to register his contract.

Last month, NRL chief operating officer Jim Doyle said that decision was directly linked to the assault charges against him.

"We have been clear that we will always act on any information that demonstrates behaviour which is contrary to the interests, welfare and image of the NRL," Doyle said at the time.

"While we make no inference in relation to the charges that Russell is facing, our integrity unit has reported conduct that leaves us with little choice other than to refuse the application for registration."

After yesterday's sentence was handed down, Doyle said because Packer was not a registered NRL player, it would not be appropriate for the NRL to comment further on the matter.

Newcastle also said the club would make no further comment until the court process was concluded.

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