6 May 2015

Moala escapes conviction over bar brawl

7:12 pm on 6 May 2015

A district court judge has told a Blues rugby player that being a successful high-profile sportsman will never on its own justify a discharge without conviction.

George Moala walking out of the Auckland District Court after his sentencing

George Moala outside court Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Judge Rob Ronayne told the Blues winger George Moala that it would always come down to consequences, not status.

Today Moala walked from court without a conviction for assault with intent to injure, despite a jury finding him guilty earlier this year of taking part in a bar room brawl that left a man bleeding from his head.

Crown prosecutor Josh Shaw said the fight happened after words were exchanged between two men and Moala's group of friends and family.

It started in the smoking area of a Karangahape Rd club before spilling onto the dance floor.

Mr Shaw said the victim was clearly overwhelmed and there was blood spraying from his head but Moala continued to throw punches.

This was at a time when bottles and chairs were being thrown at the man on the ground and security guards were trying to protect him.

He said in normal circumstances a conviction would be entered.

Moala's lawyer Paul Wicks QC said the jury cleared Moala's brother Siua, and they must have concluded Siua was acting in defence of his brother.

He described Moala's actions as impulsive and said his employment was in jeopardy.

Mr Wicks said it was not like he could just go to another employer if he lost his job.

He said there was only one employer of professional rugby players in New Zealand and that was the New Zealand Rugby Union.

Judge Ronayne said Moala's career could be over if he was unable to travel overseas for rugby games if he was convicted.

He characterised the fight as chaotic and said he could not be sure how it started.

Sentencing of George Moala. Auckland District Court

George Moala in court today Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Judge Ronayne said he received character references from three church ministers as well as Blues coach Sir John Kirwan, who was at today's sentencing.

Sir John described Moala as a humble young man who has matured over the last two years and has a bright rugby career ahead of him.

Moala offered to take part in restorative justice and wrote a letter to the victim.

He told the court he was remorseful but Judge Ronayne said he was taking that with a large grain of salt because Moala maintained he was not guilty.

He said Moala had no tertiary qualifications to fall back on and that would be devastating not only for him, but also his partner and their four-year-old daughter.

The judge told the rugby player he had let himself down, as well as his family and the Auckland Rugby Union.

He did however order Moala to pay $2500 in reparations to the victim.

Moala now faces a disciplinary process.

That will involve the Blues and the New Zealand Rugby Union who have been waiting for the court process to end before concluding the process.

A spokesman for the Blues said today's sentence will be taken into account