A once-promising rugby league player who held-up a service station with a claw hammer then detained a man against his will in separate robberies will spend at least three-and-a-half years behind bars.
Iokimi Naqelevuki, who is currently being housed in Lithgow jail, appeared via video link in Wollongong District Court on Friday, pleading guilty to armed robbery and aggravated robbery charges.
He failed to get cash but made off with about 15 packets of cigarettes.
When the victim said he didn't have any money on him, Naqelevuki frog-marched the man back to his apartment.
"Your life is more valuable than the money, I'll kill you bro," he said.
When the victim could only produce $22 in change at his home, Naqelevuki took him to an ATM and had him withdraw $500.
The man asked a female customer for help and she called the police.
Naqelevuki walked out of the store and left in a white car before he went to another petrol station and purchased $102 worth of items using the man's card.
Naqelevuki was arrested at his home in Fairy Meadow the following day.
He issued an apology to the victims of both incidents after viewing CCTV footage of in court on Friday.
"After watching those video tapes I do feel very sorry for what I've done to those people, it didn't look very nice at all," he said.
Naqelevuki told the court he used to play competitive rugby league but had fallen in with the wrong crowd in his late teens and gave up the sport in favour of drinking and taking drugs.
He said he wanted to return to playing when he was released from custody, and also hoped to continue the cabinet making apprenticeship he'd started before his incarceration.
"I've woken up to myself about what I want to do now - I don't want to spend the rest of my life in jail," he said.
Judge Haesler said a psychological report prepared for the sentencing proceedings noted Naqelevuki likely had undiagnosed oppositional defiance disorder, along with sever alcohol use disorder.
He said Naqelevuki was serving an intensive correction order for unrelated offences at the time of his arrest.
"I'm not particularly confident he will take up opportunities the parole will give him....he will need considerable help adjusting to normal community life [when released]," Judge Haesler said.
He sentenced Naqelevuki to a total prison term of five-and-a-half years, with a non-parole period of three-and-a-half years. Naqelevuki will be eligible to apply for parole in January 2025.
The Illawarra Mercury newsroom is funded by our readers. You can subscribe to support our journalism here.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.