Fallen NRL star Brett Finch has been spared going to jail after an attempt to buy drugs ended with him pleading guilty to child abuse charges.
Judge Phillip Mahony sentenced Finch to two years imprisonment, suspending it with a $1000 surety and conditions in Sydney's Downing Centre District Court on Wednesday.
Judge Mahony accepted there were "exceptional circumstances" to his offending, which was the result of Finch's drug addiction and not motivated by a sexual interest in children.
The two-year sentence is suspended under a recognisance release order.
He will have to remain of good behaviour, continue treatment with a psychologist, and undertake rehab among other conditions.
Finch pleaded guilty in August to one count of using a carriage service to transmit, publish or promote child abuse.
The 41-year-old said his only goal in leaving the messages on FastMeet - a telephone service for gay men - was to obtain cocaine, telling the court he was introduced to the service by drug dealer connections.
His explanation was not challenged by Crown prosecutors and was accepted by Judge Mahony.
"It could only have been borne out of desperation to obtain drugs to feed his addiction," he said.
Finch made the "twisted" comments about children, which cannot be published, because he thought it would draw a response from people who were on drugs or had access to them, he said.
The messages were short but contained "highly depraved and sexualised" references to children aged from 12 to 16, and posed a danger of inspiring others to offend, Judge Mahony said during sentencing.
After leaving his first message in November 2020, Finch ceased using the service in January 2021, almost a year before he was arrested.
When police came knocking in December 2021, Finch admitted to using the service and provided access to his devices, on which no child abuse material was found.
He agreed in court it was a terrible way to buy drugs and was ashamed of it.
Expert evidence also suggested a level of hypomania and noted Finch had suffered concussions during his playing career.
His offending was unsophisticated, using his own phone rather than the internet, and not part of a larger network, Judge Mahony said.
The messages were also not able to be perpetually retransmitted like material on the internet.
Outside court, Finch's lawyer Paul McGirr requested privacy to allow Finch to rebuild his life.
"This man does not have any sexual interest in children and unfortunately drugs have played a major part in ramblings of what he was saying," Mr McGirr said.
"That's just another example of the dangers of drugs and how far they can send someone down into a spiral."
"Brett holds his head up and we move on."
Finch's drug addiction came quickly after he first tried cocaine during an overseas trip following the end of his NRL career in 2013, when he struggled to transition to a less structured post-football life.
He felt his whole life had revolved around rugby league.
Finch played three State of Origin matches for NSW and won a premiership with Melbourne Storm in 2009.
His crowning moment came in the 2006 Origin opener when he kicked a match-winning field goal for the Blues.
Post-football, Finch suffered mental health issues and spoke publicly about his battles with substance abuse.