‘Reluctant celebrity’ Winmar slammed for drunken attack
AFL legend Neil "Nicky" Winmar has avoided jail over a drunken assault on a taxi driver after a Melbourne football match.
On Friday, Deputy Chief Magistrate Felicity Broughton ordered the two-time All-Australian player to undergo a 12-month Community Corrections Order, including 100 hours of community work.
Winmar, 53, got out of the cab and became "agitated and aggressive" after the driver asked him to pre-pay a fare for a 20-minute ride.
When the cab driver confronted the former St Kilda and Western Bulldogs star at the rear of the vehicle, Winmar threw multiple punches at him, knocking him to the ground.
He then punched and kicked him as he lay defenceless on the road.
The attack happened outside Marvel Stadium, where Winmar had been to watch St Kilda beat Essendon, about 11.30pm on March 30.
The cab driver was taken to hospital suffering a split lip, swelling and bruising to his cheek, and soreness to his ribs.
"He was a taxi driver going about his normal duties … as anyone in their workplace is entitled to do," Ms Broughton said.
"It's fair to say once that confrontation at the rear of the taxi took place you took it too far."
The experienced magistrate said alcohol was a problem in the community, but it was no excuse for criminal behaviour, after Winmar indicated he had "too much to drink".
She said Winmar's "great athleticism and prowess" as a footballer had "come as a double sword" for him, no doubt giving him pleasure at the time, but opening him up to public criticism and racism.
"You have been described by your counsel as a reluctant celebrity," she said.
She put his prospects of rehabilitation as "extremely good".
The Hall of Fame inductee pleaded guilty to recklessly causing injury and public drunkenness.
His lawyer, Sam Norton, had pushed for a financial penalty, quoting Winmar's remorse, early guilty plea and limited priors.
But police said it was a "violent matter with alcohol involved" and that a community corrections order would be more appropriate.
In sentencing him, Ms Broughton acknowledged Winmar had not been before the court for 19 years. In 1997, he was fined $1250 for unlawful assault, being drunk in a public place and resisting arrest.
He faced court again in October 2000 where he was convicted and fined $3000 for an assault.
In July, a 2.75m bronze statue was unveiled in Western Australia to commemorate Winmar and the iconic moment he lifted his jumper and pointed to the colour of his skin after a day of racial abuse from Collingwood fans at Victoria Park in 1993.