Bar owner regrets AFL grand-final breach

·2-min read

A Melbourne bar owner jailed in Perth for breaching Western Australia's border rules so he could attend the AFL grand final has arrived back home saying he is "deeply sorry" for his actions.

Prahran restaurant and bar owner Hayden Burbank, 49, and his freind, finance firm managing director Mark Babbage, 38, were sentenced on October 13 after admitting they had entered WA using fraudulent documents.

Landing in Melbourne after three months behind bars, Burbank, a Melbourne Demons fan, told Nine News that he and Babbage were "deeply sorry for the selfish and stupid decisions made".

He said he had let down his friends in healthcare the most after dodging isolation, considering the "sacrifices they'd made throughout the pandemic".

"The time in jail has made us realise and understand the seriousness of our offending," he said at Melbourne Airport.

"I'd like to apologise to the people of Western Australia and Northern Territory for putting you ... at risk with our actions."

Burbank and Babbage each pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to comply with a direction and one count of gaining benefit by fraud.

A WA court heard the pair had arrived in Perth on September 22, having been granted approval to enter based on G2G travel pass applications which indicated they had each been in the Northern Territory for the previous 14 days.

Their applications were bolstered by falsified documents including an NT driver's licence, an ANZ bank statement featuring an NT residential address and an NT residential tenancies agreement which included both men's names.

It was later determined they had flown from Melbourne to Darwin only eight days earlier and were therefore "high-risk" travellers who were not permitted to enter WA under its controlled border regime.

The pair attended the grand final at Optus Stadium on September 25 and were pictured posing inside the change rooms with Melbourne player Alex Neal-Bullen after the side's drought-breaking premiership win.

The photo was posted on the AFL's official Instagram account.

They were arrested at a resort in Bunker Bay in the state's southwest on September 28 after police issued a public appeal for information.

Both tested negative to COVID-19.

In court a police prosecutor argued the offending was serious enough to justify an immediate term of imprisonment, saying there could have been a "super-spreader" event at a grand final attended by more than 61,000 fans.

Magistrate Matthew Holgate sentenced the men to 10 months' imprisonment but ordered that seven months be suspended.

Babbage and Burbank are also facing charges in the NT.

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