Having escaped jail for breaking a man’s jaw in a one-punch incident outside a nightclub, Marley Williams is likely to resume playing for Collingwood's VFL team within the next two weeks.
Williams received a 12-month suspended sentence on Tuesday for causing grievous bodily harm, and while the club indicated he would not play until he was ready and was in no rush, this weekend’s VFL game against Essendon has not been ruled out for his return.
If Williams does not play in the VFL on Saturday, a return is probable the following week, though the Magpies say he will not return until he is ready on emotional and physical levels. He is expected to have two to three weeks in the VFL, at the least, before he could be considered for senior selection.
Williams, 20, was convicted in February after a jury deliberated for more than 2 hours, following a four-day trial at Albany District Court. Williams, who has been training as usual while awaiting sentencing, had chosen not to play until his court case had concluded. Former captain and fellow defender Nick Maxwell said Williams was ‘‘right now, not physically or emotionally ready to play AFL football’’.
Maxwell told SEN radio Williams was ‘‘not the victim in all this’’ and had learnt a lesson, but would ‘‘come out it a better person’’.
In a statement, Willliams said: ‘‘I would like to apologise to all of those hurt, one way or another, by my actions. I’m deeply sorry for the pain I’ve caused a lot of people. The last 16 months have not been easy for anyone involved.’’
The court heard the Magpies defender assaulted 29-year-old Matthew Robertson outside Studio 146 during the 2012 Christmas holidays. He submitted during the trial that the violence began when three men, including Mr Robertson, assaulted him in the nightclub toilets.
Williams told police: ‘‘I wasn’t going to let them feel like they got the better of me.’’ But in court, he denied he had been angry and out for revenge when he hit Mr Robertson, claiming he feared for his own safety as the men approached him on the street.
Williams described the assault as a ‘‘reflex punch’’ intended to warn the men to ‘‘back off’’.
But prosecutors said Williams was acting out of ‘‘malicious, vindictive vengeance’’ when he swung the left-handed punch, which left Mr Robertson with a broken jaw and needing an emergency flight to Perth for surgery.
While defence lawyer Tom Percy said during sentencing in the West Australian District Court that Williams had gone downstairs to see what the men were up to, prosecutor Tony Loudon said that was inconsistent with the footballer’s testimony at the trial, when he said he was catching a taxi.
Judge Julie Anne Wager said she accepted Williams had worked hard to address the issues that had led to the assault, which was at the lower end of the scale of GBH offences. While the charge carried a possible maximum sentence of 10years in prison, she sentenced Williams to jail for 12 months, suspended for 12 months.
‘‘Had you been sober, had you been more mature, you would have let the matter drop’’ - Judge Julie Anne Wager
She also imposed a lifetime restraining order, preventing Williams from having any contact with Mr Robertson. She said she accepted the assault was not premeditated, that Williams was responding to an incident in the toilet and that he was later distressed by his reaction.
‘‘Had you been sober, had you been more mature, you would have let the matter drop,’’ Judge Wager said. ‘‘But for the aggression shown to you earlier, you would not have been involved in this matter.’’
Williams’ many supporters in court gasped with relief when the sentence was handed down.