Former NRL star George Burgess fights groping allegation

A woman who was allegedly groped by a former NRL star while trying to procure a jersey for a charity event has told a court she was left feeling “terrified, helpless and scared”.

George Burgess, 31, pleaded not guilty last year to a single charge of sexually touching another person without consent while at the woman’s Mascot home in Sydney last year.

The former St George Illawarra Dragons forward admitted to going to the home of the woman, whom he had known for about a decade, after agreeing to provide a signed jersey.

The woman, who cannot be named, told police in body-worn footage played in court on Monday that Mr Burgess tried to kiss her moments after handing over the charity item.

“That’s when I said, ‘Do you want a cup of tea?’ to defuse the situation … I opened the cupboard and he’s turned around (and) grabbed me on the bottom,” the woman told police.

“I froze on the inside and was just looking at the tea. He put a hand either side of my body and pressed right up against me. … I told him, ‘This is not going to happen’.”

The woman told officers she asked Mr Burgess, who was married at the time, about his wife and kids, to which he allegedly replied: “You know how it is.”

Police allege Mr Burgess again tried to kiss the woman after being offered English Breakfast or Turkish Apple, before suggesting the pair “cuddle” on the couch.

I got all hot and sweaty. That’s when he turned around and said, ‘You’re getting hot, why don’t you take your jumper off?’ the woman told police in the footage.

“He leaned back and that’s when he put his hand down his pants. I wasn’’t sure what he was going to do. He stood and said, ‘I love your juicy a**e and grabbed my a**e’.

“I said, ‘Nothing is going to happen’. He said, ‘Stay and be naughty with me’. He tried to kiss me again … I said, ‘I’m a good girl and this isn’t happening’. He had a chuckle.”

The woman told Sydney Downing Centre Local Court Mr Burgess left soon after, telling her he would talk to her in “another 10 years when you need another jersey”.

The woman teared up while giving evidence on Monday, telling police prosecutor Adrian Wash the alleged groping in the kitchen left her “terrified, helpless and scared”.

She described to the court feeling “petrified” during the alleged incident and that she had thought to herself after sitting on the couch: “I need to get this guy out of my house”.

“I was really uncomfortable. This was a six foot man, double my weight, that has encroached on my home. I was terrified … I didn’t know what could happen at this point.”

The woman said after Mr Burgess had left that she felt “violated” and told the court that within half an hour he had allegedly messaged her with a purple devil emoji.

Asked how the emoji made her feel, the woman told the court she felt “dirty, absolutely putrid”, and that it seemed Mr Burgess “was proud of what he had just done”.

In her evidence, the woman revealed the circumstances before the alleged event, which began when she messaged Mr Burgess and his brothers about the charity event.

She told the court Mr Burgess had messaged her on Snapchat after she had texted him and sent his brother an Instagram message, and she had offered to collect the jersey from Wollongong.

Instead, Mr Burgess said he would collect the item, which was to be auctioned, from the woman’s home because he was going to be in the south Sydney area for a “sporting commitment”.

In the aftermath, the woman told the court she contacted a friend and current partner before being encouraged to message Mr Burgess to “tell him what he did was not okay”.

In the messages, Mr Burgess apologised for the alleged incident and according to police told the woman he was “truly sorry for hurting her feelings” and said it was “wrong”.

Mr Burgess’ lawyer, Bryan Wrench, told the court the former NRL star did not contest going to the home for the jersey but was in “complete denial” that he grabbed her.

Mr Wrench told the court there was no DNA evidence on the woman’s jumper from Mr Burgess and called into question evidence taken by police from her phone after the report.

The court was told Snapchat messages, which automatically delete, were not recorded from before the incident and the pair had been “best friends” on the app.

The woman took notes after the alleged incident and reported immediately to her friends and then partner, the court was told, but did not report it to police until some days later.

The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Senior Constable Olivia Matthews, said the woman had told her that she had delayed reporting the allegations to police owing to concerns about “repercussions” from potential media reports.

Nonetheless, Mr Wrench told the court the woman had been interviewed by The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail following publication of the allegations last year.

In cross examination, Mr Wrench accused the woman of wanting to “bring down” Mr Burgess of using the matter as a “crusade” – claims she strongly rejected.

“No female has never stood up and said enough is enough … If you want to call women not being vilified and sexually assaulted a crusade, sure,” the woman told the court.

Mr Wrench’s questioning also centred on the nature of the pair’s relationship prior to the alleged offending, and claims she had been “angry because Mr Burgess was married”.

At the time of Mr Burgess’ arrest, the Dragons said they informed the NRL integrity unit, but he wasn’t stood down from playing.

Mr Burgess retired from the game later that year but in a May Instagram hinted at a return to the sport with the caption: “The comeback is on.”

Later that month, Mr Burgess announced he would return to play with the Cairns Brothers in the Cairns and District Rugby League competition.

The matter will return to court on March 11, where more witnesses are expected to be called, including a friend of the woman, and other police officers.

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