Two drunks have said he copped a hiding. Tigers management, Benji, Benjis manager and the hotel owner have all said there were no punches thrown.
Benji bashed in brawl
EXCLUSIVE by DEAN RITCHIE
March 15, 2006
INJURED Wests Tigers superstar Benji Marshall was punched in the head and knocked to the ground in an early morning assault at a North Coast hotel yesterday.
Marshall, who is recovering from a fractured cheekbone, was in the Greenhouse Tavern at Coffs Harbour after watching his brother play in the NSW touch football titles. Marshall did not suffer any injuries.
Two eyewitnesses last night told The Daily Telegraph: the incident happened shortly after midnight. "This guy came over and hit Benji in the face," said one of the onlookers.
He's then ducked for cover but the bloke kept coming and hit him again with a couple of uppercuts. It happened right near the bar.
"People then jumped in. Someone had to help Benji up off the ground.
"The other guy then took off before the security guys came over."
The second witness said: "About six punches were thrown all by the one guy. Benji didn't throw one."
The Daily Telegraph understands Marshall had been talking to a female patron moments before the drama started.
The Wests Tigers initiated an investigation with Marshall and his manager Martin Tauber after being told of the incident by The Daily Telegraph.
After speaking to Marshall, chief executive Steve Noyce confirmed an incident had taken place but denied his star player had been struck in the face.
This contradicts the eye-witness versions from the two patrons.
Noyce has been told a man was evicted from the pub after the fight.
"Benji was given permission to go and watch his younger brother play in Coffs Harbour," he said.
"He was asked to attend the after-match function and wanted to do the right thing so he agreed. During the course of the evening someone was evicted from the function.
"That person thought Benji had played a role in the eviction.
"That was incorrect.
"An incident followed.
"Benji was not hurt or assaulted.
"This is an unfortunate reminder for Benji that with his popularity, even if he has done nothing wrong, people will still look to point the finger."
Noyce said it was "unfair" to claim Marshall should not have been in a pub three days after fracturing his cheekbone.
Greenhouse Tavern owner Anthony Haslam denied any fight occurred.
"There might have been a jealously carry-on thing with a girl tossing ice cubes (at Marshall)," Haslam said.
"He wasn't involved in any fight at all."
Marshall's manager Martin Tauber added: "The bloke took a swing at Benji. Benji said he wasn't stupid enough to retaliate."