Rugby league stars jailed for drunken nightclub brawl over mobile phone

Click to follow

Three rugby league players were jailed yesterday for their part in a "mindless, dangerous and drunken" brawl.

The international player Chev Walker, 20, his Leeds Rhinos teammate Ryan Bailey, 19, and the Rochdale Hornets full-back Paul Owen, 24, were filmed on closed-circuit television fighting outside a nightclub in Leeds. Walker and Bailey were sent to a young offenders' institution for 18 and nine months respectively, and Owen was jailed for 15 months.

A Leeds academy player, Dwayne Barker, 19, who was initially involved in the punch-up before being knocked unconscious with a broken jaw by Owen, was ordered to do 150 hours' community service.

All four listened with heads bowed as Judge Batty condemned their behaviour. "This matter is not improved by each of you being described as role models for the young in your capacity as rugby league professionals," he said. "You ought to be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves. Each of you has brought disgrace on the good name of rugby league, on your club, but most of all upon yourselves."

Gary Hetherington, chief executive of Leeds Rhinos, said after the case that the men's future at the club would be decided after they had served their sentences. While maintaining that the players were "outstanding role models", he said their behaviour had "tarnished the club" and it was "a very sad day".

Leeds Crown Court heard that the 16-stone Walker - the youngest person in the game to have achieved international status - had been the principal party in the violence, which took place outside the Creation nightclub in May last year. Adrian Waterman, for the prosecution, said the trouble had arisen when Owen, a trainee chartered accountant, was tricked into handing his mobile phone to a woman. As he struggled to recover the phone, Walker mistakenly thought he was assaulting the woman, challenged him, and a brawl broke out.

Closed-circuit television footage showed the drunken players punching each other and Owen kicking Barker in the head as he lay on the floor. Barker, who was due to sign for the Leeds first team later that day, was left with a splintered jaw and sidelined for 10 weeks.

All four admitted violent disorder. Their defence lawyers insisted the behaviour was out of character and said they were ashamed of their actions. David Hall, defending Bailey, said his client "shuddered with shame" when watching his actions from that night on videotape.

The Rugby Football League, said in a statement that it considered the matter dealt with by the court and the players would be considered for international matches when they were available for selection.