‘Grooming’ led to jail term for former Murray Bushrangers administrator

A FORMER Murray Bushrangers football administrator has been jailed for sending nude photographs to a 13-year-old footballer.

Mark Patrick Heaney was working as a regional development manager in northern NSW last year when he logged onto Facebook and began chatting up a 13-year-old he’d coached.

“He instigated a conversation that was of a sexual or explicit nature and sent the child a number of images of himself,” Downing Centre District Court judge Laura Wells said at his sentencing in Sydney yesterday.

One picture showed Heaney lying down naked with one hand over his penis, according to the boy, though Heaney urged him to delete the pictures.

The 43-year-old also suggested he might send photographs of the teenager to a male modelling agent during an online chat that lasted until 4.30am.

But the boy alerted his parents and the next time Heaney logged on, he found himself unknowingly chatting with an undercover police officer.

The former PE teacher, who was based at Wangaratta in 2006 as the Bushrangers’ regional manager, pleaded guilty to a grooming charge over his first online encounter with the boy in February last year and a series of later interactions with child abuse investigators posing as the teenager.

Judge Wells said that during one online chat with an undercover officer, Heaney suggested he and the boy compare penis sizes.

The pair also discussed meeting up at a hotel Heaney frequented, where he said they could have an ejaculation contest.

“Sticking with the sporting theme, I think we’ll set up a target and see who can shoot the furthest,” Heaney said.

Asked how much body contact there would be, Heaney replied: “We’re both footballers, mate. We can handle a bit.”

He continued to send pictures of himself but appeared wary, making comments such as “Prob shouldn’t have sent that hey. You sure you’re alone?”

In one exchange, Heaney said: “Are you tossing right now?” and when asked if he would mind if that were the case, “the accused said ‘yes’, that he needed a camera, so he could look him in the eye”.

Although the 13-year-old was not involved in most of the chats, his father said he had “withdrawn emotionally” since the first incident and he no longer played Australian Rules.

Judge Wells said she accepted Heaney never intended to go through with the hotel meeting and had sought psychiatric help.

She has handed him an 18-month total sentence with a release date of July next year.

Heaney showed no reaction as the sentence came down.

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