It was only last week when the news came through that Marley Williams had been found guilty of assault causing grievous bodily harm, the ugly fallout from a night on the town back in December 2012. The court case had been hanging over his head all throughout last year, which is a testament to his resilience given how well he developed on field, but for Marley last week’s verdict was the worst possible result he could have hoped for.
He now has an uncomfortable wait until his sentencing in late April, when his fate will be decided.
I’m not going to hope for a lenient sentence, nor cross my fingers that he escapes jail time purely on the basis of my football allegiance. So many things transcend football and this, most certainly, is one of them. The only thing I hope for in regards to Marley is that no matter what transpires during sentencing and beyond, he finds the strength to change and continue to grow from this regrettable incident.
I have found some of the justifications that have been bandied around the internet a little cringeworthy, so I won’t partake. Without being in the courtroom and having only news reports and some grainy CCTV footage to go on – along with some common sense and being able to weigh the probability based on life experience – we can say with reasonable confidence that there were no angels to be found on either side that night. Most critical of all though – and truly the bottom line – is that it was clear that Marley had alternatives to the path he took.
Marley made just about the worst possible decision and will have to face the consequences. He needs to take ownership of his actions first and foremost if he’s to move forward in the right direction. There likely were some factors as to why he felt threatened, but if his reaction to such circumstances remains the same then this won’t be the last time that he finds himself on the wrong side of the law.
All that said, Marley was and still is a young man. He certainly won’t be the last 19 year old to make such a poor decision when fuelled by alcohol and primal bravado. This doesn’t excuse his actions or those of anyone else opting to walk a similar path, but he has been fortunate that the physical ramifications were not of the most irreversible kind and has an opportunity to make amends for his actions.
As embarrassing as some of the narratives offered up in his defence have been, those on the other end of the spectrum have been just as forgettable. Admittedly, many of these have originated from opposition fans who, despite their claims, can’t help but view this as a Collingwood issue. As much as many Collingwood fans have struggled to view this from outside the nest, others on the outer have been just as incapable of objectivity.
Marley needs to pay his debt and his position as a Collingwood footballer should have no bearing on the outcome. What he and everyone looking on should remember however is that his disappointing and above all dangerous reaction back in 2012 does not have to stand as the moment that defines his life – more specifically, his character – long term.
Everyone has the capacity for change and Marley has the right to redeem himself, whether he remains in society beyond April or returns to it further down the line.
From the club’s perspective, I hope that they extend every means of support to Marley during this trying time and into the future, regardless of what transpires. I speculated last year on what I would like the club to do in the event of the worst case scenario, but I won’t expand on this right now, for it just wouldn’t feel appropriate.
A man had his jaw broken and a young man now waits to find out the extent of his freedom — how we manage our list in the wake of all this pales in comparison, so for now I will leave it at this.
There are no winners in this situation, the most we can hope for is that all the parties involved come out of it a lot wiser.