James Stannard still has vertigo months after 'king hit', court hears
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James Stannard still has vertigo months after 'king hit', court hears

Former rugby sevens captain James Stannard still lives with vertigo after he was punched in the head outside a kebab shop in Sydney's east in March, leaving him with a fractured skull, a court has heard.

Stannard, 35, had just left the Coogee Bay Hotel  about 3am on March 30 after a celebration with teammates when he was "king hit", causing him to fall to the ground and hit his head.

James Stannard outside court on Monday.

James Stannard outside court on Monday.

Photo: Brook Mitchell

On Monday, witnesses told a hearing at Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court they heard a "bone-crushing sound" similar to a solid tackle before Stannard hit the ground with a "sickening thud".

Joshua Friend, whose father Andrew Friend was the outgoing rugby sevens coach, said Stannard was talking to another man when the man hit Stannard on the chin with a "quick right jab".

"I saw James Stannard's eyes go back in his head like he was unconscious. There was a loud whack, people turned around," Mr Friend said.

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Stannard then went "stiff as a board", Mr Friend said, and his head hit the ground with "a sickening thud".

"I didn't feel any fight brewing," Mr Friend said. "I didn't feel like something was about to happen. It was just a surprise."

Sam Oliver was the victim of an expletive-laden "verbal attack" from James Stannard, his lawyer said.

Sam Oliver was the victim of an expletive-laden "verbal attack" from James Stannard, his lawyer said.

Photo: Dean Sewell

British tourist Sam Oliver, 23, has pleaded not guilty to recklessly causing grievous bodily harm and assault occasioning actual bodily harm over the incident, with his lawyer arguing the punch was thrown in self-defence.

Prosecutor Burton Ko told the court Stannard was knocked unconscious, hit his head on the concrete footpath and started bleeding from his right ear following the punch.

Mr Oliver ran off and Stannard's coach and two teammates gave chase, eventually catching up to him between two parked cars near the Grand Pacific Hotel. A "physical altercation" unfolded, which was witnessed by two paramedics who were there for an unrelated incident, the court heard.

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Lewis Holland, 25, who had a hamstring injury, said he had just left the Coogee Bay Hotel with his teammates and was waiting near the kebab shop when he heard a "bone-crushing sound".

"I play rugby. When you hear a good solid tackle the energy just kind of stops," Holland said. "I heard that, then I looked up and saw James falling to the ground."

Holland said he saw someone run off, and heard others in the crowd say "stop him" or "grab him" before he gave chase. Teammate Ben O'Donnell caught up to the man first, and when Holland arrived he tackled the man to the ground.

"At the time I was injured so I was running pretty slow," Holland said. "I arrived and just made a tackle."

Thirteen witnesses are expected to give evidence about the circumstances of the punch over the course of two days.

Mr Oliver's lawyer Chris Watson said there is no issue his client punched Stannard, but the question was whether or not, when that occurred, the punch was "a response he considered necessary".

James Stannard announced his "forced retirement" in June, citing "head injuries I recently suffered".

James Stannard announced his "forced retirement" in June, citing "head injuries I recently suffered".

Photo: AAP

Mr Watson said Stannard – who had a blood alcohol reading of .23 – launched an expletive-laden "verbal attack" on his client for being a "Pom" then punched Mr Oliver in the eye. Following this, Mr Watson said, his client hit Stannard.

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Giving evidence, Stannard denied calling Mr Oliver a "Pommy c---" but agreed he refers to English people as "Poms" on occasion. Stannard said the last thing he remembered was the band at the Coogee Bay Hotel finishing as the pub closed for the night.

"What was your next memory?" Mr Ko asked.

"In hospital," Stannard said. "I had an extremely sore head and I had blood coming out of my ear. I was quite anxious. I didn't know what was going on."

Stannard said he has "ongoing" vertigo after the incident and had to go to follow-up medical appointments for his fractured skull.

Witness Mark Tobin, who did not know either man, said he was at the pub with three friends while on a break from military deployment to the Middle East.

Mr Tobin said he was standing outside the pub when there was a "confrontation" between two men at a kebab shop across the road, where they argued for 30 seconds to a minute. One of the men, with blonde hair, walked several steps towards the other man, who was bald, and hit him with "a hooking motion".

I had an extremely sore head and I had blood coming out of my ear. I was quite anxious. I didn't know what was going on.

James Stannard

"The bald man got punched in the side of the head and dropped and smashed his head and didn't move," Mr Tobin said.

Mr Tobin said he ran across the street to give first aid, taking off his shirt and offering it to cover "a large gash or wound" on the victim's head.

He said when an ambulance arrived, Stannard began to tell ambulance staff to "f--- off".

"He wasn't in the right mindset, I believe, to understand what fully happened," Mr Tobin said.

Mr Tobin told the court he does not follow football and only found out who the victim was when he watched the news.

Stannard announced his "forced retirement" in June, citing "head injuries I recently suffered".

The hearing continues.