Former AFL player Liam Jurrah wants to rekindle his football career, after a jury found him not guilty of brutally assaulting his cousin at a brawl last year.
After nearly eight hours of deliberations a jury of seven women and five men told the Alice Springs Supreme Court that they had unanimously decided the former Melbourne Football Club player was not guilty of the crime, which carried a maximum penalty of 14 years’ jail.
Jurrah did not react when the jury’s verdict was read out to the court, but he triumphantly walked out of the court surrounded by supporters from the outback town of Yuendumu, where he is from.
“I am feeling happy at the moment,” Mr Jurrah told waiting media.
He said he was not sure whether he would celebrate the verdict.
“I will probably just lay low with my family and take it easy,“ Jurrah said.
The footballer, who was Melbourne’s leading goalkicker in 2011 and won the award for the AFL’s mark of the year in 2010, said he wanted to return to playing AFL football.
“It is going to take a long journey to get back to where I want to be,” he said.
Jurrah, who has been living in Adelaide since being delisted by Melbourne last year, still has legal issues in South Australia, where he is facing separate charges of drink driving and aggravated assault.
He has trained with the Port Adelaide football club but their manager Peter Rohde was non-committal about whether the club would rekindle its interest in Jurrah.
“We’d have to sit down and have a chat about it,” Rohde said.
“He hasn’t done any training, so he’d be a long way behind the eight-ball this year,” he said.
The earliest Jurrah could get back into the AFL system is 2014 and he would need to be picked in the national or pre-season drafts for that to happen.
The most likely path for Jurrah is to join a state league club and play well enough to demand attention in the draft - which is what Andrew Krakouer did in WA on his release from prison when Collingwood drafted him after starring for Swan Districts in the WAFL in 2010.
Jurrah said it was his dream to play AFL and a return to the game was very important to make his family happy again.
For more than a year Jurrah has claimed he was innocent of attacking his cousin Basil Jurrah at a brawl at the Little Sister’s town camp on the edge of Alice Springs last year.
Basil Jurrah sustained multiple lacerations to his skull and face, including injuries to his eye socket and nose during an attack.
Two other men originally arrested with Liam Jurrah who were at the fight - Christopher Walker and Josiah Fry - had already pleaded guilty, although the jury did not learn of that during the trial.
During the eight-day trial five witnesses said they saw Jurrah attack Basil Jurrah with a machete at the camp on March 7.
Defence counsel Jon Tippett, QC, argued that many of the witnesses who gave evidence had been drunk, couldn’t see because it was so dark, may have convinced themselves of Liam Jurrah’s guilt, or had a motive to lie.
The trial heard that two family groups, the Walker/Granites and the Watsons, clashed at Little Sisters as part of an ongoing feud that related to an earlier death at the outback town of Yuendumu, where Jurrah is from.
Jurrah said he hoped all the problems between the families would now end.