Australian rugby sevens skipper James Stannard has been ruled out of playing at the Commonwealth Games after he suffered a fractured skull in an alleged one-punch attack in Sydney’s eastern suburbs early this morning.
Rugby Australia high performance manager Ben Whitaker said the team was shocked at the incident and the fact that Stannard would no longer be leading them during the April competition.
“It would have been James’ third Commonwealth Games. He’s an extremely important member of our team both on the field and off the field,” Mr Whitaker said.
He said the rest of the team would have to show resilience to both support Stannard and focus on their goal of winning Commonwealth Games gold.
Stannard was allegedly struck by a man after speaking with him outside a kebab shop in Coogee in Sydney’s east.
Police say attack was unprovoked
Police described the attack as “unprovoked” and said Stannard did not know his alleged attacker.
Several members of the Australian men’s sevens team witnessed the incident and two of them, along with head coach Andy Friend, detained the man until police arrived, according to Rugby Australia.
Mr Whitaker said the players who were involved in chasing down the alleged attacker acted out of necessity and were not injured.
“Sometimes you make that call to go after them, and they did the right thing in the end and they did what they had to do,” he said.
“It was just such an unfortunate incident and something that they had to do because of the state that James was in.”
Stannard and the group, which included his teammates, team management and their family members, had been at dinner at the Coogee Crowne Plaza earlier in the evening to celebrate the role Friend had played coaching the team, before a large group went out in Coogee afterwards.
“They were all together and there was management involved the whole night so it was a very civilised, organised event,” Mr Whitaker said.
“It’s an unfortunate incident, it’s not unique, but it’s just very sad.
“At the end of the day … these guys were out after a civilised, organised function and it’s disappointing that unfortunately these things happen.”
Mr Whitaker said it was too early to tell when Stannard would return to playing but “health comes first, footy second”.
“We don’t know that at this stage, obviously we know that right now he needs some time to heal.
“He’s not available for the Comm Games and that’s and obviously a massive disappointment for all of us and James and his family and then once that’s all sorted then we’ll look at how he can return to play.”
Team management are currently considering who will replace Stannard, with rugby sevens matches set to take place between April 13 and 15.
Commonwealth Games athletes offer support
“These sorts of incidents are just sickening. We all have our fingers crossed James can make a speedy recovery,” Moneghetti said.
“While we are absolutely disappointed for James that this terrible incident has cost him a chance at competing at the Commonwealth Games, at this stage our primary concern is his welfare.
“Commonwealth Games Australia will continue to work with Rugby Australia and provide any support we can.”
British man charged over incident
New South Wales police charged a 22-year-old British man over the alleged incident, which happened on Coogee Bay Road at about 3:10am.
Stannard, a Rio Olympian, was allegedly assaulted from behind and hit his head on the pavement. He is in a stable condition at St Vincent’s Hospital and was conscious and talking.
“He has a sore head,” police inspector Steve Egbers said, adding the incident “should never have happened”.
The area is a popular night spot in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and police believe alcohol was a factor in the alleged incident.
The British man was taken to Maroubra Police Station and charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
He was granted bail and is expected to appear at Waverley Local Court on April 19.