Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: A bit more remorse would help Packer

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Considering the risk to a life, Packer deserved more than two years. Photo / Getty Images
Considering the risk to a life, Packer deserved more than two years. Photo / Getty Images

There was a satisfying moment in the disgrace that is Russell Packer's vicious attack on a fellow citizen.

As the hero of the hour, Sydney magistrate Greg Grogan, passed a two-year jail sentence for a despicable act, NRL forward Packer was - according to reports - struck by confusion. Having thought his freedom was safe thanks to the work of his lawyers, he suddenly faced the enormity of the crime. Having told his dad that everything would be "sweet", it had turned out sour. Hey, I'm a league star, get me out of here. Packer's rude awakening contrasted the smugness that preceded it.

Somewhere down the track let's hope that Packer can rebuild his life and sort out his issues, and that his family is okay. After all, they are also victims.

But it's difficult to give a toss about Packer himself right now. The failure of those around him to properly acknowledge what Packer did is also extremely annoying.

Maybe they can do a better job when the appeal against the sentence is over.

Late-night altercations are one thing. They aren't good, and the perpetrators need dealing with but people make mistakes and punches get thrown in the heat of often drunken moments. The point at which Packer crossed a major line was when he attacked a motionless Enoka Time on the ground and stomped on his head.

What followed the sentencing was so inevitable. Poor Rusty has been picked on. Other people have done far worse, and got far less. Blah, blah, blah.

There's a simple retort. Packer got what he deserves, and if others are being treated too leniently, then the justice system needs to do something about that. Considering the risk to a life, Packer deserved even more. We're a sicker than ever society if defence lawyers don't think a prison sentence might result from these circumstances.

The NRL was already on the right track by refusing to register his contract. The New Zealand Rugby League should follow suit with some sort of ban on the former Kiwi. Both organisations face tricky balancing acts.

His family, the Newcastle club, mentor David Lomax, and former Warriors teammate Ben Matulino are among those in the Packer support group. As per usual, there's hardly a mention of the victim. The Knights' description of Packer acting "inappropriately" does not fit the severity of the crime.

This is what we should hear from Camp Packer. They love their man and will support him forever. But he has done wrong, very wrong. Having committed a wicked crime, they accept he will do some time. They will do all they can to help Enoka Time get his life back on track and deal with the emotional aftermath which quite clearly involves an anger he revealed via a social media account.

I'm not an entirely neutral observer. Nearly 25 years ago, a gang of robbers in the central city relieved me of loose change and shoes by punching and kicking my head and body while I lay on the ground. Outnumbered by maybe eight to one, I played the subservient rag doll, fearing most of all they might have knives.

There were varying consequential emotions, including a sense of humiliation and powerlessness. Sporadically, I lapsed into a loony fantasy and imagined exacting revenge the way a Clint Eastwood character would. Maybe the gang's escape from justice and my failure to seek proper victim support contributed to a gross and pathetic overreaction when, a year or so later, our house was burgled.

There was one relief point at the time of the attack. Having been so viciously thorough in extracting every last cent and returning for the shoes, this gang of master criminals failed to find a wallet in an inside jacket pocket. You'll go far lads.

There was even a bit of light relief. The young man who took my statement at Auckland central was laid up with a broken leg suffered at the police academy. He kept moaning about how the injury was stuffing up his budding career, without any great interest in my plight. He seemed to see us as brothers in the arms of misfortune. In some ways, it was an excellent tonic of humour which encouraged a new perspective.

Over plenty of time, I learned to deal with the anger, partly by turning the situation around and silently wishing the best for those attackers and also realising they may be victims of life circumstances. None of us is perfect, either. We can all hurt others. But it took some time to reach that point.

And there was still no excuse for the crime and I'm certain of this: more obvious signs of genuine remorse from Packer would help his main victim, and he might even help himself.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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