Former NRL player spared jail after pleading guilty to child abuse charges

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Fallen NRL star Brett Finch was spared jail after attempted purchase drugs ended with him pleading guilty to child abuse charges.

Judge Phillip Mahony sentenced Finch to two years in prison, hanging him on $1,000 bond and conditions at Sydney’s Downing Center District Court today.

Mahony admitted there were “exceptional circumstances” to his offense, which were the result of Finch’s drug addiction and not motivated by a sexual interest in children.

Former NRL player Brett Finch has avoided prison for child abuse. (Nikki Short)

The two-year sentence is suspended under a recognition release order.

He will have to keep a good behavior, continue his treatment with a psychologist and undertake a rehab, among other conditions.

The 41-year-old said his only purpose in leaving the messages on FastMeet – a phone service for gay men – was to get cocaine, telling the court he was introduced to the service by connections to drug traffickers.

Brett Finch after launching his famous State of Origin basket in 2006. (Getty)

His explanation was not challenged by Crown prosecutors and was accepted by Mahony.

“It could only have been desperation to get drugs to feed his addiction,” he said.

Finch made “twisted” comments about the children, which cannot be published because he believed it would draw a response from people who were using drugs or had access to them, he said.

The posts were short but contained “highly depraved and sexualized” references to children between the ages of 12 and 16, and risked inciting others to offend, Mahony said in sentencing.

After leaving his first message in November 2020, Finch stopped using the service in January 2021, nearly a year before his arrest.

When police came knocking in December 2021, Finch admitted to using the service and providing access to his devices, on which no child pornography material was found.

He admitted in court that it was a terrible way to buy drugs and that he was ashamed of it.

Expert testimony also suggested a level of hypomania and noted that Finch suffered concussions during his playing career.

His offense was unsophisticated, using his own phone and not part of a larger network, Mahony said.

Nor could the messages be perpetually retransmitted as material on the Internet.

Outside of court, Finch’s attorney, Paul McGirr, requested confidentiality to allow Finch to rebuild his life.

“This man has no sexual interest in children and unfortunately drugs played a major role in the ramblings of what he was saying,” Mr McGirr said.

“This is just another example of the dangers of drugs and how spiraling they can send someone.”

“Brett keeps his head up and we move on.”

Finch’s drug addiction came quickly after he first tried cocaine after his NRL career ended in 2013, when he struggled to transition into a less structured post-football life.

He felt his whole life had revolved around rugby league.

Finch played three State of Origins for NSW and won a premiership with the Melbourne Storm in 2009.

His moment of glory came in the 2006 Origin opener when he threw a game-winning field goal for the Blues.

After football, Finch suffered from mental health issues and spoke publicly about his battles with drug addiction.

Former NRL player spared jail after pleading guilty to child abuse charges

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