Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

I didn't start attack, says Packer victim

Young Kiwi says he was hit after he asked league player to give back cigarettes he had snatched

CCTV footage showed Enoka Time arguing with Packer before the latter punched Time in the head.
CCTV footage showed Enoka Time arguing with Packer before the latter punched Time in the head.

The young man assaulted by NRL player Russell Packer says he didn't provoke the attack.

Enoka Time, also known as Lester, has spoken out exclusively to the Herald for the first time since Packer, 24, was handed a two-year jail sentence by a Sydney magistrate this week.

Mr Time grew up in Auckland and has been living in Sydney for the past few years, after scoring a contract to play at a league club as a teenager.

He and Packer did not know each other.

"I only knew of him but we weren't friends or anything like that."

Mr Time said he and two female friends had been smoking outside a nightclub in November. Not far from them was a group of young men, including Packer, who had earlier been asked to leave the Chambers Hotel nightclub.

"This random guy - apparently Packer's mate - walked over and asked one of the girls for a smoke. She said, 'Nah'.

"Then Packer walked over and snatched the ciggies off her ... I go: 'What are you up to? Give the ciggies back.'

"I stood up and then bang, (Packer) hit me straight away. I didn't stand up to have a fight or throw any punches. I was pretty drunk that night and so was he."

Court documents show that the incident was captured on CCTV footage.

The documents say the footage shows the pair arguing before the NRL star punches the left side of Mr Time's head. "The accused moved in and punched the victim again a number of times to the head. This caused the victim to fall backwards to the ground, hitting his head on the ground.

"The victim was lying motionless ... the accused has bent down and punched the victim again with his left hand in an uppercut motion. He then stood up straight and stomped on the victim's face."

Mr Time suffered two fractures on the side of his face, including a broken eye socket, lacerations and severe bruising. He was left in a neck brace for two weeks.

Mr Time, who never pressed for charges to be laid, said he felt Packer's sentence was tough on his family. He regrets posting a Facebook status with unfavourable jail references about the player, saying it was fuelled by anger.

"Even though he did that to me, I honestly feel for his Mrs and kids."

Mr Time said he had refrained from retaliating during the incident because he did not want to put his contract at risk or upset his family back in New Zealand.

An appeal by Packer will be heard on February 11.

- NZ Herald

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