A footballer on parole for a violent armed robbery who allegedly broke a teenager's jaw in a sickening on-field attack that shocked the nation will plead self-defence.
William Pickett, 28, of Griffith Street, Heywood, allegedly punched then 17-year-old Sam Lambevski during a senior South West District Football League match between Heathmere and Branxholme-Wallacedale football clubs on July 28.
He appeared in Portland Magistrates Court on Tuesday charged with recklessly causing injury and breaching parole.
Police withdrew a single charge of recklessly causing serious injury.
Magistrate Michael Coghlan said if Mr Pickett pleaded guilty to the remaining charges he would sentence him to a community corrections order with conditions he do unpaid community work.
But Mr Pickett did not accept the sentence and indicated he would plead not guilty on the grounds he acted in self-defence.
Mr Coghlan warned Pickett of the "significant risk of a term of imprisonment".
"You've got a 17-year-old coming along to say you broke his jaw in an unprovoked assault," he said.
Mr Coghlan said if Pickett was found guilty of the assault he would not receive any penalty discount and that a jail term could interfere with his parole period, which is set to end in September 2020.
Mr Pickett was sentenced in 2014 to six years and nine months' jail with a non-parole period of four years and three months on nine charges, including armed robbery, recklessly causing injury, theft and drug possession after a violent supermarket robbery where he held a gun to a teenager's head.
On Tuesday, police said in the final quarter of the July 28 match, Mr Pickett hit a Branxholme-Wallacedale player before running off the field.
That player was not injured.
The 17-year-old victim followed Mr Pickett as he ran to the forward line, the court heard.
Police said the victim yelled out to Mr Pickett, calling him either a "dirty b*stard" or a "dirty pr*ck".
Mr Pickett stopped, turned around and waited for the victim to get closer to him before raising his right arm and striking the teenager above his right eye.
The victim fell to the ground and briefly lost consciousness. He said he suffered dizziness and nausea.
At the completion of the game the victim was taken to Hamilton Hospital, where a CAT scan revealed he had suffered fractures to the left and right side of his jaw.
The court heard the victim did not require surgery and the fracture was left to heal naturally.
On July 31, the incident was heard at the SWDFL independent tribunal. Mr Pickett pleaded not guilty to an intentionally striking charge.
He copped a three-week suspension prompting outrage from the public, politicians and the media.
Victoria's highest profile commentator, 3AW's Neil Mitchell, described the three-week ban as "an insult to sport".
"The man has a history of assault and armed robbery," Mitchell said. "It was (a) brutal attack, a sickening and unnecessary attack.
"This is an insult to sport. Three weeks is absurd. If he'd done this in the street the bloke would be back in jail."
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said subsequently the penalty "seemed inadequate".
"It shouldn't have happened, we need to work out why three weeks when there's a concussion and broken jaw behind play," he said.
AFL Victoria then appealed the leniency of the original three-match ban and it was increased to eight weeks.
Mr Pickett told the court he could not recall if he pleaded guilty or not guilty during the tribunal.
He was interviewed by police on August 3. He said he ran off the field after hearing the victim yell racial abuse at him.
He said he put his hands up to defend himself after he saw the victim "coming at (me)".
"No person in the world playing football would wait for something to happen," he told police.
Mr Pickett said he didn't intend to strike or hurt the victim.
Police said CCTV footage did not show the victim acting in a threatening manner.
The matter was adjourned for a two-day contested hearing in Warrnambool Magistrates Court on September 10.
Mr Pickett's bail was extended.
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