Last year was dominated by COVID-19 news, the vaccine rollout, fines for those who breached public health orders and anti-lockdown protests.
The Illawarra had its fair share of alleged COVIDIOTS, who were arrested, charged or found guilty of contravening restrictions under the Public Health Act.
While some of them copped their punishment, others have chosen to fight the allegations in court.
A Wollongong man charged over his attendance at an anti-lockdown protest in Sydney in July said he was now too frightened to leave his house, after court and media attention saw him dubbed "the poster boy for the biggest idiot in Australia".
A Newscorp photographer captured 20-year-old Nikola Dedovic as he became one of 35 people arrested in wild scenes that prompted widespread fury and warnings from the police commissioner.
Granted bail on condition he comply with public health orders and avoid unauthorised public gatherings, Dedovic told the Mercury he wouldn't be going anywhere. "I'm scared to leave my house," he said. "Everyone's going to think of me as being the poster boy for Australia's biggest idiot".
A self-described Wollongong "eshay lad" who went grocery shopping without a mask while knowingly COVID-positive copped 21 days' jail time.
Daniel Kennedy was supposed to be in quarantine at his grandmother's Dapto home when police instead spotted him walking into Burelli St, Wollongong Woolworths, alongside about 100 other shoppers.
The 22-year-old tested positive for COVID on September 8 and had been ordered to self-isolate until September 22.
According to a police account of events, Kennedy was not wearing a face covering when confronted by officers. He gave them a fake name and date of birth until they threatened to search him, then said, "OK, I lied, I will give you my name", and provided correct details.
A Wollongong mother who tested positive for COVID-19 was fined $800 after she breached self-isolation restrictions when she left her home three times in six days.
Jayne Costello, 31, told Wollongong Local Court she didn't realise "the seriousness" of being a confirmed case or of the pandemic when she pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a self isolation direction in September.
Magistrate Claire Girotto sentenced her to a community corrections order for 12 months and fined despite hearing Costello had left her home on three occasions since testing positive on September 9.
She said Costello "didn't care about anyone but herself" and was deliberately "flouting the rules".
A "disrespectful" man who "ranted" at a magistrate before being forcibly removed from the courtroom was fined $5000 for breaching COVID-19 self-isolation rules in March.
Kiama Heights man James Liske was convicted in his absence for breaching self isolation regulations under the Public Health Order on three occasions in July 2020 after he returned from Victoria.
He filmed an encounter with a Lake Illawarra police officer who conducted a compliance check at his home, posting the now-viral video online.
The video is similar to others seen online where people have challenged police officers during the pandemic, known as the "sovereign citizen" conspiracy movement.
In court, the man, 36, refused to acknowledge he was James Liske instead claiming he was James Settler before saying "Mr Liske is dead" and "Mr Liske is a frickin piece of paper" during a bizarre and farcical appearance at Kiama Local Court.
St George Illawarra were left reeling after police issued 13 personal infringement notices following a house party at the home of star prop Paul Vaughan in contravention of NSW government stay-at-home orders.
The club was forced to admit failings in its culture after Vaughan was sacked in July for hosting the illegal party at his Shellharbour home with 12 other players.
The Dragons board decided to tear up the remaining 15 months of Vaughan's NRL deal which was worth around $750,000 per season.
Vaughan had already been fined $50,000 by the NRL and slapped with an eight-game ban for breaching COVID-19 protocols.
Jack de Belin and other players copped individual breach notices from the Dragons on top of the one-game suspensions and the $305,000 worth of fines handed out to the group.
Daniel Alvaro, Corey Norman, Gerard Beale, Jack Bird, Matt Dufty, Kaide Ellis, Tyrell Fuimaono, Josh Kerr, Blake Lawrie, Zac Lomax and Josh McGuire were also in attendance.
All 13 players as well as Vaughan's partner were fined $1000 by NSW Police for breaching a health order.
Vaughan expressed his remorse and a desire to return to the field, while he was emotional during an appearance on TV.
"Firstly I am sorry," Vaughan wrote on Instagram. "My actions were stupid, unexplainable and irresponsible."
Five people were fined after attending an anti-lockdown protest in Wollongong in July.
Up to 250 people - most of whom were not wearing masks - took part in the protest which also included a massed walk along the bike path at North Wollongong.
It was part of a broader series of so-called "freedom rallies", with protests also taking place in Sydney and elsewhere from noon.
NSW police spokeswoman said Wollongong Police District attended Endeavour Drive in response to an unauthorised protest.
"Five $1000 penalty infringement notices were issued for breaches of the public health orders," she said.
A Coledale man who allegedly threw horse poo and a pot plant at a police horse during the Sydney anti-lockdown protest in July was released on bail.
Upon his release from custody a barefoot Jonathan Paul Sargent fled from media down Market Street.
Sargent, aged 29, was charged with rioting, two counts of throwing a "missile" at a police officer as part of a public disorder event, not causing actual bodily harm, assaulting a police officer, not causing actual bodily harm, and not complying with a noticed direction regarding COVID-19.
Police allege Sargent, who is unemployed, attended the anti-lockdown rally in the Sydney CBD on Saturday, July 24.
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