Rugby player still shaken by 'cowardly' blow

By Kiri Gillespie -
Simon Chisholm (centre) is reluctant to leave the field after being knocked out in the second half of the premier-grade rugby match. Photo / Chris Callinan
Simon Chisholm (centre) is reluctant to leave the field after being knocked out in the second half of the premier-grade rugby match. Photo / Chris Callinan

Bay of Plenty rugby star Simon Chisholm still has a brain injury nearly eight months after being punched unconscious during a game - and could die if he suffers another blow to the head.

But when the "coward" who hit the Te Puke Sports hooker and former Steamers player was sentenced in the Tauranga District Court yesterday, Mr Chisholm knew nothing about it.

Te Puna player Uenuku Pieta punched the 30-year-old father in the side of head from behind during a game at Maramatanga Park on July 21.

Judge Louis Bidois sentenced Pieta to 200 hours' community work on a charge of assault with intent to injure and ordered $500 reparation.

Chisholm told the Bay of Plenty Times he was still suffering the effects of the punch and was unable to play rugby again.

"That fella's taken rugby away from me. I get headaches every day because of him."

Chisholm said he was still seeing a neurologist and was booked in for another MRI scan to establish the extent of the damage.

"If I get another smack to the head I could die. That's what they [doctors] have told me. I want to play footy more than anything but I've got two kids and I'm not going to put that on my kids, no way."

He was still a part of the Te Puke Sports premier team but did not play competitively.

"There are people out there that think doing this kind of thing is acceptable," Chisholm said.

"People don't realise their actions and what they can do to people. I still have to go home for a sleep every day."

Chisholm, whose job is to look after troubled youth at Tauranga Boys' College, said Pieta was a "coward" to punch him from behind.

Defence counsel Rachael Adams told Judge Bidois that Chisholm provoked her client with offensive language and deliberate taunting.

Pieta had responded impulsively "without any thought of the consequences", Ms Adams said.

Her client accepted he brought shame and dishonour on himself and the Te Puna community, she said. Pieta was also banned from playing rugby for 12 months after an independent Bay of Plenty Rugby Union judicial process.

Pieta's family refused to comment outside the courtroom.

Chisholm was not aware of Pieta's sentencing until the Bay of Plenty Times contacted him yesterday. The officer in charge or court advisers are usually responsible for contacting victims.

A Justice Ministry spokeswoman said court staff generally contacted victims after a sentencing to let them know what had happened. They did not inform victims of crime of upcoming sentencing dates unless the victim asked them to.

Court advisers tried calling Chisholm yesterday after sentencing but could not contact him.

Inspector Clifford Paxton said various parties had responsibility for liaising with victims, depending on the nature of the case and circumstances.

"We will need to liaise with the parties involved in this particular case to ascertain why the victim wasn't notified on this occasion."

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