Premiership-winning coach Wayne Bennett has vouched for the character of former NRL player Tristan Sailor at his rape trial, telling the court he is a respectful and decent young man.
Bennett was one of four people who on Tuesday spoke highly of Sailor, including an ex-girlfriend who said she believed he was not capable of what he had been accused.
It is alleged Sailor had sex with a 24-year-old woman while she was either unconscious or too drunk to consent after a night out with friends in Sydney in October 2020.
He has pleaded not guilty to two rape charges and maintains the sex was consensual, but the Crown says the woman remembers taking two sips of her drink and nothing else before waking the next morning, naked and bleeding in urine-soiled sheets.
Bennett told the District Court he had known Sailor since he was born, having coached his father Wendell at the Brisbane Broncos and the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Though he hadn’t seen Tristan Sailor much in the past decade, Bennett told the court he had great interest in his progression through the NRL ranks because of his relationship with his parents.
“I always asked about him because I was terribly interested to make sure he was on the right track with his behaviour … and how he conducts himself on and off the football field,” Bennett said.
“I got constant feedback that he’s a really decent young man … always respectful … certainly not into alcohol or drugs.
“No one had a criticism of him.”
Similarly, Sailor’s agent David Riolo said he’d never had to tell the man to stay out of trouble.
“I couldn’t speak more highly of him and his family.”
Sailor’s former coach at the Dragons, Paul McGregor, similarly told the court Sailor was a “gentleman”.
“His integrity is not challenged in my eyes,” he said.
Having known Sailor – a friend of his children – since he was about 10 years old, McGregor said he had never witnessed any anti-social behaviour from him.
“As a professional athlete I was trying to get him to be more aggressive than he is.”
One of Sailor’s former girlfriends also told the court the 23-year-old had always been respectful to her during their relationship, which ended in January 2019.
“He was always so generous, loving and kind and he always put me first,” she said.
Sailor had never been violent towards her or pressured her into doing anything she didn’t want to, she said.
“I don’t think he’s capable of doing what he has been accused of.”
Australian Associated Press