Police have alleged NRL player Tom Starling grabbed at an officer’s pistol during an incident that saw the Raiders hooker arrested on the weekend.
Canberra Raiders NRL hooker Tom Starling claims he was bashed while being arrested for assaulting police and denies he threw a punch or intentionally acted aggressively during a brawl with bouncers at a Central Coast restaurant.
But police allege Starling grabbed at an officer’s pistol before they punched him when he tried to intervene when his brother was being kicked out of the Shady Palms restaurant in Avoca Beach on Saturday night.
Starling was out with family and friends to celebrate the 21st birthday of the brother of Newcastle player Connor Watson and a group that also included Kalyn Ponga among other NRL identities.
Starling told Canberra club officials he only went to intervene when a brawl erupted involving his 19-year-old brother who had heard what he believed was a derogatory comment made by a bouncer toward his mother.
Police were already at the restaurant to deal with another matter when the fight broke out at around 10.40pm.
Police allege Starling’s brother refused to leave.
“The 19-year-old man was arrested and while he was being escorted from the venue, police will allege three other men – aged 20, 22 and 24 – became aggressive and assaulted police numerous times in an attempt to intervene.”
Starling and his two brothers and friend Jesse Byrne were all charged with assaulting police.
A police source said officers punched Starling when he tried to grab at the gun.
But 22-year-old Starling, who emerged from the incident with cuts and bruises to his face, told the Raiders he was bashed by police.
Starling will claim he did not throw a punch and was not intentionally trying to cause any trouble when he was allegedly set upon.
He spent the night in the lock up before being released and seeking medical treatment at Gosford Hospital.
The Starlings and Watsons have been family friends for years after growing up nearby on the Central Coast.
Starling was due to return for preseason training in Canberra on Monday.
It is understood Starling has spoken at length with club officials on Sunday to give his version of what occurred on the night.
An NRL spokesman said the Raiders reported the incident to the league’s Integrity Unit.
Starling made his rugby league debut with Newcastle in round 25 of the 2018 season before parting ways with the club to join the Raiders.
He spent much of 2019 playing in the Canterbury Cup before enjoying a breakout 2020 which was rewarded with a two-year contract extension.
Self-described as a surf shack “inspired by Hawaiian and Californian surf culture”, Shady Palms has only been open for three weeks, with the venue announcing its grand opening on November 21,
Staff at the venue declined to comment when approached by The Daily Telegraph, but locals were quick to defend the restaurant on social media.
“What happened could have happened anywhere,” Facebook user Robbo said.
“I feel for the owners who have invested so much time to get this place opened again. I wish them all the best moving forward.”
“Shady Palms is an Awesome Venue,” Sharon Konza wrote on Facebook. “Staff are Fantastic.”
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