Ex-Fiji rep's alleged words to opponents before league fight
The teenager under police guard in hospital accused of stabbing three people after a western Sydney rugby league game is one-time Fijian representative player Ratu Nanovo.
The alleged stabbing spree followed an under-20s game between Penrith Brothers and Wentworthville Magpies in North Parramatta yesterday.
Police allege Nanovo went to a car and got a knife before stabbing a 19-year-old Magpies player in the car park at Old Saleyards Reserve yesterday.
Two of the Magpies player's cousins were also allegedly stabbed in the brawl.
Nanovo was arrested a couple of hours later at his home on Victoria St, Cambridge Park, and taken to Nepean Hospital.
He remained at the hospital under police guard on Monday, receiving treatment to a laceration on his hand. He has not yet been charged.
Nanovo was selected in a 2018 Australian Schoolboys squad to tour England and last year played in the Penrith Panthers under-20s Jersey Flegg team.
He was selected alongside some titans of the game - Maika Sivo, Korbin Sims and Viliame Kikau - to represent Fiji against Lebanon last year, however he is not believed to have taken the field.
A Panthers spokesman today told The Daily Telegraph: "This individual is not contracted to the club and has had no involvement with the club since March this year."
Nanovo's teammate Bradley Middlebrook, himself a promising league talent, has been charged with affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm for allegedly taking part in the brawl. Middlebrook is not accused of stabbing anyone.
Nanovo allegedly said "I've got something for you" to his opponents before the fight, according to a statement of police facts read out in court at Middlebrook's bail application.
"It's alleged the co-accused (Nanovo) retrieved a knife, concealed it down his pants, then yelled out to him (the victim) 'come over here, I've got something for you'," the document said.
"Middlebrook allegedly started punching one of the victims, a brawl erupted, and the co-accused allegedly pulled out the knife and stabbed the victims."
The three alleged victims were today all stable in Westmead Hospital, where a family member told The Telegraph they were "doing okay.
"It's my brother, my nephew and my first cousin … it's been hard but they're doing well," she said.
"You wouldn't expect this at a community rugby match, I wasn't there … but they're doing much better now … we thank God they're okay."
Police today said the car park brawl and stabbing followed a heated moment on the field during the game in which Middlebrook was sin-binned for a shoulder charge.
"From what I understand at a certain point of the game it was a bit heated, there was a shoulder charge incident resulting in the 20-year-old male from Kingswood being sent from the field and it would appear as though tensions have gone off field resulting in this incident," Cumberland Police Superintendent Darryl Jobson said.
During a bail application at Penrith Local Court today, Middlebrook's lawyer Ihab Jamal argued the current COVID-19 pandemic, Middlebrook's age, and his identity as an Indigenous man showed cause that he should be released from custody.
He also said Middlebrook would be fighting the charges.
"This is a matter Mr Middlebrook will fight, and self defence will be raised," Mr Jamal said.
"My client says the reason he went past the other football team is because that's where his car was.
"My instructions are that he was struck by the other party first, and he does have a number of visible injuries on his face.
"He reported to police … he's not showing he's trying to escape these proceedings."
The prosecution opposed bail, pointing to the fact Middlebrook was already on Supreme Court bail for a charge of reckless wounding relating to an incident in January this year.
He also said the prosecution had a "strong" case with a large number of witnesses and strong forensic evidence including blood at the alleged crime scene.
Magistrate Brian van Zuylen refused bail, saying the charge was "serious".
"The court takes into account that he's on very strict conditional Supreme Court bail for very similar and serious charges, and the court considers his prime responsibility is to not commit further offences," he said.
"Bail is refused and revoked."
ARLC boss Peter V'landys said the incident is being managed by Rugby League New South Wales and that the NRL is providing support to the state governing body.
"We are working with the NSW Rugby League, whose jurisdiction it is, it's not the NRLs jurisdiction, but we are supporting them through this.