Collingwood young gun Marley Williams has avoided an immediate jail term after being convicted for breaking a man’s jaw with a single punch outside a nightclub.
After Williams was given a 12 month suspended jail term on Tuesday, Collingwood said the defender will return to train with the club as soon as possible and come back through the Magpies’ reserves team in the VFL.
Williams, 20, was found guilty of grievous bodily harm following a four-day trial at Albany District Court in February.
West Australian District Court Judge Julie Anne Wager on Tuesday said the assault was at the lower end of the scale of GBH offences.
She also imposed a lifetime restraining order, preventing him from having any contact with 29-year-old Matthew Robertson, who he assaulted outside Albany’s Studio 146 nightclub on December 27, 2012.
Williams had told the trial he had been provoked, while defence lawyer Tom Percy said the punch was not premeditated, which Judge Wager accepted.
“Had you been sober, had you been more mature, you would have let the matter drop,” she said.
“But for the aggression shown to you earlier, you would not have been involved in this matter.”
The punch was “very forceful” but the victim had not been left with any long lasting effects of his injuries, Judge Wager said.
She also accepted Mr Percy’s submission that Williams had already endured a punishment with extensive media coverage of the case, which would not have attracted so much publicity if the accused was not a sportsman.
And she accepted a description of his character by Collingwood director of football Rodney Eade, who said Williams’ behaviour outside the nightclub was out of character.
Eade said he was a very professional and focused footballer who was held in high regard by his peers, and continued to do community service after the club ordered him to spend 10 weeks assisting the Salvation Army.
Judge Wager said she accepted Williams had worked hard to address the issues that had led to the assault.
Collingwood chief executive Gary Pert told reporters outside court that the club’s support for Williams had never wavered.
Mr Pert said Williams was relieved and sorry for the stress the case had caused to his family and friends, and the victim.
“He just wants the opportunity now to get on with life and be a better person,” he said.
“He will be returning to Melbourne and continuing his training as soon as he is physically and emotionally ready, signed off by doctors and coaches. He’ll be playing with our VFL team and then will be available to play in the AFL.”
Williams submitted during the trial that the violence began when three men, including Mr Robertson, verbally abused and assaulted him in the venue’s toilets.
He told police: “I wasn’t going to let them feel like they got the better of me”.
But in court, he denied he had been angry and out for revenge when he went outside and again encountered the men.
Prosecutors argued Williams was acting out of vengeance when he swung the left-handed punch, which fractured Mr Robertson’s jaw in two places, requiring surgery.
Williams said he had acted in self defence, describing the assault as a reflex punch intended to warn the men to “back off”.
Mr Percy said on Tuesday that Williams’ response to the men’s unprovoked attack was “reactive and instinctive” but excessive, although he had chosen to use his non-preferred hand.