Man found guilty over Snelson footy assault

A friendly soccer game at Helensburgh quickly turned ugly when a home player delivered a hefty right hook to an opposing team member, fracturing his jaw, Wollongong Local Court has heard.

Ground Hogs player Michael Spencer was found guilty today of punching  Matthew Snelson during the June 30 game, forcing the 29-year-old to crumple to his knees in extreme pain.

Spencer, who had pleaded not guilty to the assault, claimed he had acted in self-defence, fearing Mr Snelson was going to attack him first after he allegedly shoved him and swore at him.

Magistrate Darryl Pearce rejected Spencer’s case, saying the 21-year-old had acted ‘‘totally disproportionately’’ in the circumstances.

‘‘This type of behaviour is not acceptable in the community,’’ he said.

‘‘People involved in games and exercise are entitled to expect their opponents not to act unlawfully.’’

Outside the court, Mr Snelson, a Nine News reporter, said he was happy with the outcome.

‘‘I’m just very pleased about the result,’’ he said.

“I’m getting back to normal, people have had much worse.”

Mr Snelson was left with a fractured jaw, requiring extensive surgery, when Spencer struck him in the face. The Wollongong University Diggers player told the court he was running for the ball when he felt Spencer shoulder-charge him from behind.

He said he was knocked to the ground but quickly stood up and headed back to his position on the wing.

Mr Snelson admitted to bumping Spencer’s shoulder but said the player then stood in front of him and swung around with a punch.

‘‘I was caught completely off guard, the force was enough to send me to the ground,’’ he said.

‘‘It just immediately sent me to my knees ... I was spewing up blood.’’

Spencer told the court he had run out in front of Mr Snelson while they were pursuing the ball and had stopped suddenly, causing Mr Snelson to run into him and fall.

He claimed he then felt a two-handed shove to his back, jerking him forward.

When he turned around, he said he saw Mr Snelson standing close to him, staring intensely and swearing.

‘‘I was afraid he was going to hit me so I punched him,’’ he said.

‘‘I wanted to fend him off ... if I didn’t hit him, he would have hit me.’’

Spencer told the court he didn’t hit Mr Snelson ‘‘that hard’’ and denied suggestion he had over-reacted.

Mr Snelson refuted claims he had intended to attack Spencer as he was upset at falling over.

Defence solicitor Bruce Ryrie told the court Spencer had no criminal record and had suffered public humiliation due to the media coverage of the case.

Spencer was placed on a three-year good behaviour bond and ordered to undergo anger management counselling.

He was also fined $2000. 

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