JACOB Frank Payne was drunk after a day at the footy when he swung a fist during a huge and violent brawl between rival supporters in the last minutes of a rugby league final.
The 23-year-old fronted Raymond Terrace Local Court on Monday where he escaped a criminal conviction but was sentenced to a two-year good behaviour order after pleading guilty to affray.
Payne was one of about 30 men - and one of several charged - who engaged in a mass brawl in the final five minutes of the Hunter Community Rugby League A-grade match at Raymond Terrace on September 9.
Magistrate Justin Peach told Payne he had made a "foolish, drunken mistake" when the verbal clash between Waratah and Dora Creek supporters turned physical and he decided to throw a punch of his own.
"You engaged in a mass brawl because you were drunk and felt like it, essentially," Mr Peach said.
Payne had swung a fist at another person, but slipped and fell over before landing the strike.
"Had you connected with that person, the consequences for you ... would be significantly different," Mr Peach said.
"Even the fact that you ... had that swing and a miss is still a significant matter."
Mr Peach said there were families and other supporters in the crowd that would have been terrified to see the brawl break out.
Defence lawyer Mark Hanlon told the court Payne had never had a criminal matter before and was remorseful for his behaviour.
"A male aggressor had said some choice words to him, he'd had a few drinks, Your Honour, and he overreacted," Mr Hanlon said.
"It was an incident that certainly got out of hand for the people involved."
He claimed Payne's involvement was "quite low" and he had learnt his lesson from having to stick to bail conditions and face court.
The police prosecutor argued there were children and multiple other people in the crowd that would have been put at risk.
About 2000 spectators had flocked to the Lakeside sporting complex at Raymond Terrace on Saturday, September 9, for a day packed with nine football finals, culminating in the showdown between Waratah and Dora Creek.
Security staff and police attended, along with families, children and the elderly, according to agreed facts.
With five minutes to go, "tensions mounted between opposing supporters located at the front of the main grandstand", the facts state.
A verbal back-and-forth between about 10 to 20 men quickly escalated into a full-blown fist fight between about 30 men.
Men were seen punching and kicking opposing supporters, and one Waratah fan allegedly used a glass bottle to try and strike another.
Several of the men had clothing ripped off them while others tore their own shirts off, according to the facts in Payne's case.
The match was stopped and players and officials rushed to try and stop the fighting, while other innocent bystanders attempted to flee.
The brawl eventually came to an end and a large group of men were seen to be "heavily bloodied".
The melee happened right in front of cameras recording the match.
Payne was charged a couple of weeks later, and co-accused remain before the courts.
Shortland man Blake Christie, 26, will be sentenced in Newcastle next month, after his matter was adjourned on Monday.
It's understood no one was seriously injured in the brawl.
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