(Reuters) - The public image of Australia’s National Rugby League took another hit on Monday when New Zealand prop Russell Packer was sentenced to two years in prison for assaulting another man in Sydney last November.
The 24-year-old Packer pled guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm and of failing to quit a licensed premises in a Sydney court on Monday and was given a custodial sentence.
Packer’s lawyers immediately filed an appeal and asked for bail, which was denied and the visibly surprised former New Zealand international was handcuffed and taken into custody, Australian Associated Press reported.
His appeal will be held on February 11.
Packer played for the New Zealand Warriors in 2013 and had joined the Newcastle Knights on a four-year deal, though the club had yet to register his contract.
The NRL has suffered numerous negative public relations incidents in recent years with players involved in allegations of assault and anti-social behaviour.
The league was also implicated in a wide-ranging investigation into drug use in Australian sport last year.
The NRL provisionally fined the Cronulla Sharks A$1 million ($898,200) last month and suspended coach Shane Flanagan for a year for exposing players to significant risk through their supplements programme, which was investigated by anti-doping authorities.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury. Editing by Patrick Johnston