Let Packer make NRL return: McGregor
Dragons coach Paul McGregor doesn't condone what former Warriors and Knights player Russell Packer did to end up in jail, but the rookie mentor has called for the NRL to allow the prop to return to the game after he is released in January.
McGregor said Packer's 12-month jail sentence had been a sufficient penalty after the 25-year-old punched and stomped on the head of an unconscious man in an altercation in November 2013.
With rumour rife that Packer has agreed to terms with the Dragons for the upcoming season, McGregor – who is preparing for his first full season in charge of St George Illawarra – said he'd be happy to have the experienced prop at the club if and when the NRL registers his playing contract.
"In my opinion, the [NRL] should have a complete review over it. That's the choice they have to make, but I'll welcome him through the gates to coach and mentor him," McGregor said.
"Do I like Russell Packer as a player? Absolutely. Do I think [for a] first time offence a 12 months jail sentence for an assault is a sufficient punishment? Yes.
"It was man v man. He pleaded guilty. He was convicted. He went to jail and is still in jail. I think it is a really tough lesson to learn for a young person.
"To be out of the game for 18 months and be behind bars without his family for 12 months, I don't condone what happened but I think it is a really tough sentence when you look at what happens out there to third- and fourth-[time] offenders and with people who hit women."
McGregor said his predominant concern in the whole situation was for Packer's young family.
"There's no tougher penalty then being away from your family for 12 months," McGregor said.
"The first and foremost thing is Russell and his family to me. That's the most important thing which needs to be fixed, what is best for that person and his family, and then rugby league is second.
"[But] if he was [banned from playing in the NRL] then how does he feed his family? If he has to do four or five courses how does he find time to work full-time to feed them? It is an interesting one for the NRL."
Asked about Packer's mental state, McGregor was only prepared to talk about his own perspectives of the matter.
"What I do know? It was an unfortunate incident which was alcohol-fuelled between a group of men," McGregor said. "Unfortunately it finished like it did… but it is a tough sentence once you think about it."