League star 'victim of timing'

By Steve Deane

Russell Packer. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Russell Packer. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A crackdown on drunken violence in Sydney was a factor in the two-year jail sentence handed to former Warriors prop Russell Packer for an assault conviction, Australian league star Robbie Farah believes.

Packer, 24, who was jailed on January 6 for an attack in which he stomped on expat Kiwi Enoka Time's head after punching him unconscious, was yesterday sacked by his NRL club Newcastle. He had signed a three-year deal reportedly worth more than $1 million but never played a match for the club.

Packer's trial coincided with public outrage and with extensive publicity over a spate of deaths from "king-hits" during late-night incidents, said Farah, who is in Auckland promoting the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines.

"The timing of it definitely I don't think has worked in his favour," Farah, who captains Sydney club Wests Tigers said. "There has been a lot of media lately about alcohol-fuelled violence and king-hits in the city, in Kings Cross.

"[On Sunday] another young boy passed away after an incident on New Year's Eve. There has been a strong backlash in Sydney and I think the public and the residents of Sydney have had enough. The police and everyone involved has come down hard on it and that probably hasn't worked in Russell's favour."

Packer was yesterday formally advised he had been sacked, the Knights said in a statement.

Australian star Greg Bird, who travelled to Auckland with Farah to promote the Nines, said his thoughts were with Packer's family.

"I just hope that him and his family - he has got two young kids - get out of it," said the Gold Coast Titans enforcer.

Packer faced a long road to redemption but it could be done, said Bird, who was sentenced to eight months' jail for an assault on his partner in 2009 but was later cleared on appeal, allowing him to resume a successful playing career.

"It is hard," Bird said. "It will be hard once he comes back out of it, trying to lose that reputation. It does stick a bit. But rugby league is a pretty forgiving sort of arena."

- NZ Herald

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