23 August 2022

Sports coach allegedly had 'almost obsessive interest' in girl he was grooming

| Albert McKnight
ACT Law Courts

A sports coach is accused of grooming one of his students. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses alleged child abuse.

A sports coach has been accused of showing an “almost obsessive interest” in a girl he allegedly started grooming when she was just 14 years old.

He began training her in late 2019 and conducted tests he claimed showed she would learn best through touch, so he started doing “touch experiments” with her, court documents allege.

These experiments included her having to guess how he was touching her. For instance, he allegedly stroked her arms in what he categorised as “a sexual manner” multiple times and insisted she touch him the same way.

The coach allegedly repeatedly kissed her. Once, he reportedly said she had to wait where they were until she kissed him back, which took 10 minutes.

He would also allegedly insist on hugging her and would hold her tightly in 30-second hugs.

In late 2020, he allegedly told her he loved her. While the girl felt uncomfortable, she said “I love you” back because she thought he would stop coaching her if she didn’t.

The coach is also alleged to have been more sexually explicit in his grooming behaviour.

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The coach is also accused of taking off the girl’s bra and taking photos of her body when they were discussing a shoulder injury and later touching her breasts.

In March 2021, the girl’s parents confronted him and accused him of spending too much time with their daughter.

Later, after the mother allegedly saw him giving her daughter a long hug, she messaged him to say he was not allowed to train her daughter or come to the house again. The coach did not reply.

However, for a short time, he allegedly continued to message the girl through one of her friends before the girl and the friend decided to cut off all contact.

The girl then went to police earlier this year.

The coach, who is legally unable to be identified after a suppression order was made on his name, finally appeared over the phone in the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday (22 August) to apply for bail.

Last week, the court heard while he was arrested on 16 August, he was then taken to hospital and underwent electrocardiogram testing as well as an MRI.

On Monday, the coach’s lawyer, Taden Kelliher of Tim Sharman Solicitors, said the MRI hadn’t shown anything abnormal.

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Magistrate Louise Taylor said the prosecution’s case appeared to be fairly strong. She said the allegations reflected classic grooming behaviour which was manipulative, predatory and spoke to an “almost obsessive interest” in the girl.

But she also said the coach had no criminal history, which was significant when he had an entitlement to bail.

She granted bail with strict conditions, including that he lives at a Canberra address and only leaves for medical or legal appointments when in the company of his wife. Also, he cannot contact the girl, provide coaching, access the internet or have a phone.

The matter was adjourned to September. No pleas were entered to charges of grooming a young person, committing acts of indecency on a young person and capturing visual data.

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