Some people were shocked and surprised by the sentence meted out to former Kiwi league international Russell Packer in a Sydney court this week.

If you don't follow league, you may not know Packer's name, but if I remind you of the infamous incident of a league player standing on a field, peeing copiously into his shorts, all of which was caught on camera, that may jog your memory.

Packer was in court after pleading guilty to assaulting Enoka Time outside a Sydney bar last November. Packer had been ejected from the bar and bashed Time in a drunken rage, before stamping on his face, leaving him with facial fractures.

It was a vicious, nasty assault, and the judge sentenced Packer accordingly. He described the attack as cowardly and deplorable and said he was sick and tired of alcohol-fuelled violence in the community.


He gave Packer the maximum he could under Aussie law - two years - and denied him bail while his lawyers scrambled to mount an appeal.

The people stunned by the sentence are divided into two camps. Team Packer was gobsmacked. After all, this is no common thug we're talking about. This is a league player, mate. A representative sportsman. Sure, give him a fine. Maybe a little bit of community service working with kiddies. If absolutely necessary, some counselling for his alcohol abuse and his anger, but come on. Jail? That's for ordinary people.

Team Packer was so confident Russ would walk from court they hadn't even brought a change of clothes, just on the off-chance he might be sent down. His dad, Russell senior, said he was devastated and saw his son as the victim.

In the past few months, Sydney has seen several people seriously injured by being king hit - punched without warning or reason - and commentators have deplored the drunken violence.

So in Team Packer's alternate reality, Russ has been made an example of when, in his dad's view, people go around doing much worse things and get a slap on the hand.

I don't know that there's much worse in an assault than stamping on a man's head when he's down, but Packer senior and I will just have to agree to disagree on that one.

So, shock and horror from the Packer camp. On the other side, many New Zealanders were surprised that a judge existed with the cojones to do the right thing.

So often in New Zealand, we've seen high-profile people walk away from serious charges simply because ... well, because they're high profile, I suppose. And here's this Aussie judge throwing the book at an NRL player who's really nothing more than a common thug.

Given the lame sentences handed out over the years by his Kiwi counterparts to defendants kwith similar high profiles within sport, no wonder so many New Zealanders were surprised that Packer was being sent directly to jail, without passing Go.

Bugger deporting Packer if and when he serves his time. Let's see if the Aussies will keep him. We'll swap Packer for the judge.

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