All Black Savea appears in court

By Heather McCracken

All Black Julian Savea leaves the Wellington District Court after appearing opn a charge of assault. Photo / Mark Mitchell
All Black Julian Savea leaves the Wellington District Court after appearing opn a charge of assault. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The door remains open for All Black assault accused Julian Savea to remain an ambassador for the 'It's Not Ok' anti-violence campaign.

The Ministry of Social Development, which runs the campaign, said the decision would be made in the future and would depend on Savea, 22, and his family.

Savea has been charged with assaulting his partner, Dawn Rodgers. He appeared in Wellington District Court today and was remanded on bail without plea until May 15.

Ministry campaign manager Trish Green said Savea had fronted up, apologised and was being held to account in court.

"That is the right thing for him to do. Any decisions about remaining involved in the campaign will be one for the future and will depend on him and his family."

A ministry spokeswoman later clarified the decision largely rested on how he dealt with the matter, and whether his partner and family wanted him to continue.

"The important thing to remember is most of our ambassadors have got a past," she said.

Former All Black Norm Hewitt, who has also worked for the anti-violence campaign, said if Savea continued in the role he would be proud to stand alongside him because he had fronted up.

"He stood up and said 'I did something that was wrong'. It takes a lot of courage to own it. Now it's about making sure he has the support and the skills to make sure it never happens again."

Hewitt was critical of rugby officials for allowing Savea to play for the Hurricanes on Friday night, when his assault charge was known but had not been made public.

"It should have been dealt with earlier," he said.

Hewitt said rugby should have been a secondary consideration in deciding what was best for Savea and his family.

"It's a sport, he'll have plenty of time to redeem himself on the sports field, but he doesn't get a lot of opportunity to redeem himself for his family."

Hewitt, who made his own tearful public apology after a drunken incident in 1999, said there needed to be more support for young players who were thrust into the spotlight.

"Particularly for these young men who are coming straight out of high school earning hundreds of thousands of dollars, [the Rugby Union] need to have more of that duty of care."

Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni yesterday skirted the issue of whether Savea should have played and New Zealand Rugby Union boss Steve Tew was urged to provide further comment today.

Asked why Savea wasn't withdrawn, unlike Zac Guildford, who removed himself from the Crusaders' environment after his latest alcohol-related incident in February, Tew said the incidents were "very different".

"The comparison is, for example, Rene Ranger who was facing a criminal charge which was eventually discharged. That took, I think, 15 months. You can't have someone out of employment and the game for that period of time. So when is it right or wrong for a player to play? It's not a very simple question to answer.

"All I'd say around Julian last week is that there was a number of quite complex issues being dealt with and all parties were involved, including his partner."

During his brief court appearance Savea stood in the dock wearing a black adidas t-shirt and jeans.

His appearance was stood down briefly while his lawyer Lucie Scott considered media applications to photograph and film Savea in court.

Ms Scott told the court the applications should be denied because Savea had been upfront and the media had plenty of opportunity to photograph him at a press conference, and while entering and leaving court.

Judge Tony Walsh adjourned the applications until Savea's next appearance and said any issues could be argued in full then.

Savea was in tears as he offered an apology to his partner at a press conference yesterday.

"Whilst I can't go in to the details because it is now before the courts, I understand that the details will come out in due course," he said.

"But I will say that my partner and I did have an argument, I did some things that are wrong and that I shouldn't have done and I apologise for that."

Hewitt said his advice for Savea would be: "Rugby is a game and at the moment, yes it's a livelihood, but family is forever.

"Get the right help and the right support and skills. It's a harsh learning curve but the accountability is for it to never happen again."

- additional reporting by Daniel Richardson

- APNZ

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