The immediate playing future of Parramatta Eels star Kenny Edwards is in doubt on the eve of the NRL season after he pleaded guilty to assaulting his former girlfriend.
Edwards, 27, who is no stranger to off-field controversy and has been sacked by two clubs, has now been “stood down indefinitely” by the Eels. The NRL was on Monday discussing what penalty he would receive.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Edwards sprayed water from a water bottle onto the face and body of his former partner Madison Campbell, 26, during an argument at her home in December last year. He also poured a raspberry vodka cruiser over Ms Campbell and her bed.
In Parramatta Local Court on Monday, Edwards was sentenced to a six-month good behaviour bond but escaped without a criminal conviction being recorded.
The back-rower was due to face a hearing, but his lawyer entered a guilty plea to one common assault charge on his behalf. A second charge of intimidation was withdrawn.
An application for an apprehended violence order was also dismissed after Ms Campbell indicated she had no fears for her safety and did not require it.
The plea comes two weeks after Edwards’ teammate Semi Radradra appeared in the same court to face a hearing into allegations he pushed and punched his girlfriend during two arguments in 2014 and 2015.
Magistrate Theo Tsavdaridis stressed that domestic violence should not be trivialised but noted it was “not in the interests of justice” to record a criminal conviction.
“This is a young man who in my opinion needs management and oversight rather than a conviction and punishment in the traditional sense,” Magistrate Tsavdaridis said.
The court heard that Edwards had his own bad experiences of domestic violence at the hands of his father.
“He saw his mother commit suicide following a lengthy period of dysfunctional familial upbringing,” Magistrate Tsavdaridis said.
Magistrate Tsavdaridis noted that Edwards had subjected himself to “discipline and structure” since playing professional NRL and “appears to have taken on in a mature way” the responsibility of raising his child with Ms Campbell. Court documents show that Edwards financially supports Ms Campbell and their child, covering their rent, food and other expenses.
“He appears on the material before me, and as a person before me, remorseful and contrite,” Magistrate Tsavdaridis.
Edwards was represented by top silk Murugan Thangaraj, SC, who also represented Radradra.
The police prosecutor did not object to the granting of a good behaviour bond.
Making a brief statement outside court, Edwards apologised to his family and said he was looking forward to the year.
“It’s obviously a negative for me to be here today,” Edwards said.
“I just want to apologise to my young family, to my club and to the NRL but I’m a positive person and I can only move forward from here. I just want to move on with my life and I look forward to this year.”
In a statement, Eels chief executive Bernie Gurr said Edwards had been stood down and would commence immediate discussions with the NRL Integrity Unit.
“In the interests of clarity, Kenny has pleaded guilty to splashing liquid on his former partner,” Gurr said.
“Our club has repeatedly stated that we will respect the legal process relating to Kenny’s charges.”
Edwards has form when it comes to off-field incidents. He served a lengthy suspension – missing a season – when he was busted taking a drugs test on behalf of his teammate Kaysa Pritchard.
The back-rower was also stood down for two games and fined $5000 after being charged with public nuisance over an incident with an acquaintance on the Gold Coast in 2014.
Manly and St George Illawarra have previously terminated his contract over disciplinary issues.
But after the drug test scandal, Edwards made a strong comeback in 2016, playing in 24 matches and in August earned a three-year contract extension until the end of 2019.