Eagle asks to be spared jail
Murray Newman. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

UPDATED: Eagles footballer Murray Newman has been jailed for 12 months for a bar assault, despite claims it could end his bright AFL future.

Newman had asked to be spared an immediate jail term for breaking the jaw of a man who had slept with his former girlfriend.

The submission came as his defence lawyer this morning argued that the now 20-year-old had been immature and encountering problems with his fledgling football career at the time of the offence but had "buckled down" for the WA club since the offence and would lose a "wonderful opportunity" if jailed.

Prominent Melbourne-based barrister David Grace QC also argued that the assault was at the lower end of the scale and had not been enough to stop the victim attending a music festival, bar and Bali holiday within weeks of the attack.

A District Court jury took less than three hours to convict the player in December of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm on Brett Marris when they clashed at the Library nightclub on November 10, 2012.

Newman, whose teammates Nic Naitanui, Dan Cox and Jack Darling had come to support him in front of the jury during the trial, had argued he acted in self-defence.

He said he didn't mean messages he sent on social media to his victim in the days leading up to the assault that said he would not stop until he hurt Mr Marris and suggesting his target start digging a grave.

Today, Mr Grace said Newman was just 18 at he time of the assault and despite his desire to play football at the highest level had exhibited immature behaviour and an "unsettled" lifestyle that saw him fined a number of times by the football club.

But Judge John Staude queried the defence's submissions that Newman was remorseful and that his behaviour had been an aberration, with the judge pointing to the repeated challenges for a fight made by the player online before the assault despite his victim telling him to go away.

"It was a considered act ... it wasn't a spontaneous outburst," Judge Staude said, noting the player had been sober when he acted on a "deep" grudge in a violent way.

"He's only sorry because he has been convicted," the judge said, adding that while Newman had not denied hitting Mr Marris he had not taken responsibility for it.

The judge also queried the defence request for mercy given Newman's bright career as a footballer would end if jailed - confirming that while an assault conviction was not seen as enough to terminate his contract with the club, a jail term would.

Judge Staude suggested Newman was suffering no more hardship than any other employed person who lost their job when they were sent to prison.

The court was told Newman, who was supported by club officials in court, had no prior convictions.

As part of the defence submissions that time behind bars was not appropriate, the court was handed a handwritten apology from Newman and photos that Mr Grace suggested showed the victim had not suffered pain beyond the first weeks after the incident.

The barrister said one image showed Mr Marris at a music festival with a group of men 15 days after the assault and 13 days after surgery for his broken jaw.

Another image was taken by the defence from Facebook, allegedly showing the victim in Bali with friends another two days later, and also at a bar with friends in December.

Mr Grace said while it was accepted Mr Marris suffered pain, it appeared not to have a long-term impact on his ability to enjoy life and he had made a "good recovery".

He said Mr Marris' victim impact statement had only outlined fear and anxiety in some public spaces as a consequence of the attack aside from the "pure injury".

The prosecution argued that immediate jail was appropriate.

Newman, who can apply for release on parole after serving half the term, was told by the judge that he was not being made an example of because of his public profile.

But the need to deter such prevalent assaults, in combination with his failure to take full responsibly for an unprovoked and "considered" attack on a man who had turned down his invitation to fight weighed too heavily against suspending the jail term.

"Cases of this kind come before this court too frequently," Judge Staude said moments before delivering his punishment. "It is too late after the trial... to express sorrow."

But Judge Staude took into account Newman's prior good character and efforts to change his behaviour after the crime.

He said it was beyond the court's control what would happen to Newman's football career, but he noted that Newman had received support of the club after the conviction.

Club officials declined to comment as they left court today, but released a media statement this afternoon.

West Coast said the club "unreservedly" accepted the court's decision to hand down a custodial sentence.

The club did not condone Newman's actions, but would like to keep him on the rookie list, West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett said.

"The club does not condone Murray's actions, or similar violent acts, but will continue to support him," Mr Nisbett said.

"As we have done throughout this case, we will continue to work closely with the AFL on this difficult issue.

"We would like to retain Murray on the club's rookie list for the 2014 season as the club believes that it will be an important part of his rehabilitation and his re-integration to society – and football – upon his release.

"Since this incident occurred, Murray has been exemplary around the club, and is deeply sorry for his actions.

"That 10-second loss of control obviously now has dire consequences for Murray as he will spend at least the next six months in jail."

Newman's victim told The West Australian he was happy the case was over and looked forward to get on with his life.

Mr Marris said he did not wish to comment on the sentence but believed it was right that Newman deserved no special treatment for being a footballer.

"I think he’s just the same as everyone else that has a job,” he said.

Mr Marris did not wish to comment on West Coast's decision to support Newman, other than to say he felt no disappointment about the club's move.

The West Australian

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