NRL star Reni Maitua has been placed on an 18-month good behaviour bond for intimidating a taxi driver during a drunken trip in which he mistook the cab’s EFTPOS machine for a telephone.
The 32-year-old Canterbury Bulldogs backrower was ushered into a cab by a security guard in inner-city Darlinghurst at around 4.30am on November 25 last year.
During the journey, police say Maitua became increasingly aggressive, swearing and “barking orders” and kicking and punching the back of the cab.
He was so drunk that he even mistook the cab’s EFTPOS machine as a phone and tried to grab it.
Maitua originally pleaded not guilty to assaulting the cab driver and intimidating him.
But after he failed to have the matter discharged under Section 32 of the Mental Health Act on Monday, he pleaded guilty to intimidation.
The prosecution then withdrew the charge of assault.
During a hearing on Monday, the Downing Centre Local Court heard that Maitua was suffering from a depressive episode when he got into the taxi that night.
The player had just experienced the breakdown of a long-term relationship and was anxious about having surgery for an injury.
He had also attempted to take his own life only three months prior.
“This year, despite his injury, despite his surgery and despite his mental health issues he is in first grade at a club that is higher up the ladder than the one that didn’t want him anymore (in Parramatta),” his barrister Murugan Thangaraj SC said.
In sentencing Maitua, Magistrate Mark Buscom accepted that the 32-year-old had engaged with mental health professionals to deal with his issues and his consumption of alcohol.
Maitua, he added, had also become an ambassador for suicide prevention Australia.
A recording of a conviction would have a significant impact on his career as a player, he added.
He therefore did not record a conviction, instead placing Maitua on a 18-month good behaviour bond.
Speaking outside court, Maitua thanked the Bulldogs for their support.
“I just want to continue to get better and finish off the year with Canterbury,” he told reporters.