"It may merely be a reflection of the people who go to the football ... it may suggest they're not the most intelligent members of the community."
- Mr Justice Sides, QC, District Court judge, 24.09.2013, during the hearing of Matti Homwood’s appeal against sentence for streaking
Matti Holmwood streaked across the field in the last few minutes of one of the State of Origin matches in July this year.
For the benefit of overseas readers, the main football code In New South Wales and Queensland is known as Rugby League with the competitions being between geographically located club teams. Each year there is also a best of three State of Origin series where, whatever club they play for, players are picked to represent the State in which they played their first senior rugby league. It can therefore see club mates pitted against each other. It is popular, matches are sellouts and the games attract huge television audiences. Bill Shankly, the Scottish manager of Liverpool, once said: "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that." Substitute "State of Origin" for "football" in that quote and you will have summed up how most fans view the annual Origin series.
As a result of Holmwood’s streak, Queensland (in maroon, below) was denied an imminent scoring opportunity.
The streak was seen by 83,000 spectators and by millions watching the TV broadcast. Reaction was hostile.
Local Court Magistrate Chris Longley sentenced Homwood to 3 months jail and a $2,000 fine, not only for the State of Origin streak but for having breached existing good behaviour bonds for public nudity and streaking, including at a Warriors vs Tigers NRL match at Leichhardt Oval, where he was apprehended by a superb flying tackle:
It has been suggested that the security guard should be recruited to play for New South Wales.
At the hearing of Holmwood's severity appeal to the District Court, his barrister, William Tuckey. decided to go with the Larrikin Defence rather than the Streaker’s Defence.*
Tuckey told the court Holmwood's streak was part of a longstanding tradition in Australian sport. "It was seen as a comedic act ... It was a larrikin act. Mr Holmwood is not the first person to streak at a football match or a cricket match."
Judge Martin Sides QC did not agree, saying that "It may merely be a reflection of the people who go to the football ... it may suggest they're not the most intelligent members of the community."
In the end Sides J gave him 2 months instead of 3 and dropped the fine.
The internet, meanwhile, has not been idle:
* From a Bytes post in 2010 looking at various defences;
Australia’s first streakers Allana Kereopa and David Cook streaked across the finishing line ahead of the horses at the Doncaster Handicap of 13 April 1974 at Randwick racecourse, watched by 52,000 punters. Allana tried to escape via the member's enclosure, causing the gatekeeper to say "You can't come in here, you haven't got a badge on!" Her excuse to the magistrate was "It seemed like a good idea at the time," thereafter known as "The Streaker's Defence".
In 1983 Senator Gareth Evans used a RAAF plane to perform a reconnaissance mission over the Franklin Dam to gather evidence as part of the Federal Government case that the Tasmanian Government was not complying with Federal legislation to stop work. This illegal act caused a storm of criticism, to which Evans responded “I can only plead the Streaker’s Defence: ‘It seemed, your worship, like a good idea at the time’. “