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Shane Yarran’s AFL redemption story shattered
as heartbreak destroys a dream
‘The allegations were spurious, weak and would not succeed at trial,’ says lawyer Luka Margaretic. Picture: Colin Murty.
The Australian 12:00AM April 28, 2018
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The police ﬁle that would help to crush Shane Yarran’s AFL career
was closed — unsolved — on the morning of July 20, 2015.
Oﬃcers in the southern Perth oﬃce of Armadale did not know who
put a 10cm gash in the right shoulder of Yarran’s distant relative, 41year-old Jeffrey Anderson, during a brawl involving more than 100
people the previous Saturday night. Neither did Mr Anderson,
according to his statement to police that night.
But the investigation lurched back to life amid growing expectations
that the Fremantle Football Club was about to pluck Yarran from the
state football league to the big time; Detective Scott Dodson reopened
the ﬁle after answering the phone to Mr Anderson at the Armadale
police station on November 18, 2015, six days before AFL draft picks
When the charge of unlawful wounding came, Yarran’s lawyer, Luka
Margaretic, said the rookie claimed he was getting phone calls asking
for money to make the complaint go away.
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The calls then came to Mr Margaretic’s oﬃce at MGM O’Connor
Lawyers; the veteran criminal defence lawyer said the ﬁrst asking
price was $50,000.
Yarran’s arrest in December 2016 — he had arranged to meet
Constable Jasmine Duthie in the carpark of a Hungry Jack’s near his
home in the southern suburb of Gosnells — shattered a redemption
story made for a TV movie.
The late Shane Yarran.
Yarran was a Noongar kid who, according to evidence presented to
his burglary trial in 2009, grew up amid a great deal of violence and
family feuding in the West Australian wheatbelt town of Northam. He
became a delinquent in one of Perth’s toughest suburbs, Midvale, was
bashed close to death at 18 then committed a series of home invasions
in what a psychiatrist described as a “diminished mental state” as a
result of head injuries from the assault, which required him to have
metal plates in his head.
Yarran did his time without incident and went from jail to leading
goalkicker in the WA Football League then to 61st place in the 2015
AFL draft. His death at 28, less than two years since he last electriﬁed
the forward line for the Fremantle Dockers, has devastated the
players and football oﬃcials who willed Yarran to succeed through
personal turmoil, drug use and run-ins with police.
Staff were in tears at Perth’s juvenile detention centre this week over
Yarran’s apparent suicide. They remember a “cheeky, lovely boy” who
was in and out of the children’s jail in the early 2000s and his
triumphant return in 2016 on a visit with Dockers.
“He was so proud to be there as someone who’d put trouble behind
him; he was just beautiful the way he talked to the kids,” one said.
Shane Yarran’s cousin former Carlton and Richmond player Chris Yarran. Picture: Bohdan Warchomij
Yarran’s story was part of the Bushby Street fairytale that enchanted
journalists as much as it did Aussie rules fans — since 2008, the street
lined with public housing in Perth’s north has produced four AFL
players: Nic Naitanui, West Coast Eagles’ star ruckman who was born
to Fijian parents, and three young men from big, loosely connected
Aboriginal families — Michael Walters of the Fremantle Dockers,
Chris Yarran and his cousin Shane. The cherished narrative goes that
they grew up together kicking the footy between wheelie bins in the
middle of the road.
But the story of the Bushby Street alumni now includes heartbreak
and unrealised potential.
By 2016, aged 25, Chris Yarran was newly signed to Richmond on a
lucrative contract but he was also in the grip of ice and his mental
health was poor.
He walked away to get well, later revealing he had found peace after x
a childhood marked by upheaval, violence and fear.
Gerard Neesham, Fremantle’s inaugural coach and head of the
Clontarf football academy where Shane Yarran was enrolled until he
left school in Year 11, knows from experience that supporting a
troubled player takes resources and time. “It is 24-7. Shane’s case is
really sad — he was trying to get out of a really diﬃcult environment
and football did a great job helping him achieve that.
“But there are big risks when you’re a high-proﬁle professional
Current Fremantle Docker Michael Walters. Picture: Daniel Wilkins
Yarran quit Fremantle with a payout ahead of the 2017 season, as the
prospect of an unlawful-wounding trial loomed. The Weekend
Australian has been told he believed a guilty verdict would mean the
end of his contracts.
He had earned about $75,000 the year before as a rookie and took a
payout of about $50,000. There had been high hopes Yarran could set
up his young family through football but in the end he paid off the
loan on the car he was driving, fees to his management and pocketed
The thought of it angers Mr Margaretic, who has known the Yarran
family for more than a decade as an amateur football coach and later
as Shane’s lawyer. “It was always conveyed by me in court that the
allegations against Shane were spurious, weak and would not succeed
at trial,” he said.
“Shane was never afforded the presumption of innocence. This
pressure of being in the public eye ultimately took its toll.”
In August, the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped the unlawfulwounding case against Yarran. The prosecution brief included
contradictory and confusing witness statements, there was no CCTV
incriminating Yarran and Mr Anderson’s formal police statement
included an admission that “all of us were throwing punches”.
Mr Anderson admitted he had tried to go to a car “to grab a bottle or
something to defend myself”.
Mr Margaretic said his oﬃce told the prosecution about the mystery
requests for money to resolve the unlawful-wounding dispute. Over
time, the requests got as low as $5000.
He said the prospect of a trial was extremely stressful for Yarran.
“The wheels of justice turn slowly, and in the interim his life had
unravelled to the point he had been involved in a car pursuit with
police and incarcerated as a result of these matters,” he said.
At Yarran’s last court appearance on April 6, Mr Margaretic said, “the
bough broke as he reacted to a camera being thrust into his face”. He
punched the camera, causing the operator to fall to the ground.
By now Yarran’s life was in chaos. On Friday last week, news crews
went to his home for the last time, as the news spread that he had
taken his own life.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.