Player dodges jail for king hit
WHEN an on-field brawl erupted during an A-grade rugby league match, a player ran up to an opposing team member and king-hit him.
The victim fell to the ground with a broken jaw and the player who hit him, Sueni Kilifi Falekakala, was charged with the criminal offence, grievous bodily harm - something Ipswich District Court heard was "most unusual".
The Crown's case against Falekakala, 21, was the assault was unprovoked, and the victim wasn't even involved in the brawl.
Crown prosecutor Kris Ashen said while violence on-field during a rugby league match might be considered "part and parcel" of the game, the victim in this case was an innocent party to the fight.
"It was a purely gratuitous hit - a cheap shot - brazenly done in front of witnesses," Mr Ashen said. "A message needs to go out that unnecessary violence will not be tolerated in the community."
Falekakala pleaded guilty at Ipswich District Court on Friday.
Defence lawyer Michael Bosscher said Falekakala's act was not premeditated, nor had he intended to break the victim's jaw.
Mr Bosscher said there was a culture instilled in players that if your teammates became involved in a brawl, you had to get involved.
"The fact it occurred on a sporting field doesn't excuse his behaviour, but Your Honour should consider the number of players on the opposing team who'd become involved in the melee," he said.
"It involved my client's best friend, during a situation of heightened tension."
Falekakala was sentenced to 18 months prison, wholly suspended for two years.
The prosecution and defence said they couldn't find any previous comparable cases where criminal charges had been laid from a fight on the sporting field.
Ipswich Rugby League chairman Jack Rhea said there had been several occasions where players had been charged.
"It's a rough game, but it's not sacrosanct just to walk up and whack someone," Mr Rhea said.
"(The charge) sets a good example to kids and young men watching the game. You just can't go and fight someone for the sake of it. We're there to play football in the true spirit of the game. If you want to fight, become a boxer."