Retired NRL player Anthony ‘Chook’ Fowler has been jailed for masterminding an armed robbery of his former employer, the Falvey family’s Cecil Hotel, Goodna.
Peter Falvey has owned and operated the Cecil Hotel for 35 years, in recent times with his son Michael. Together they employed Fowler for three years, after Michael got to know him coaching his son’s school football.
It emerged that Fowler had begun bullying another staff member and then Michael when he intervened, leading to his dismissal.
On 19 March, 2015, Fowler and two other men lay in wait for long-time employee Darren Moloney, who arrived every morning before six to perform cleaning duties. The men grabbed Moloney and held a replica gun to his head, forcing him to take them to a room where money was kept.
The combination on the main safe had been changed, and while the group expected to get hold of between $120,000 and $200,000, they did still escape with $19,133.
Moloney was reportedly very troubled by the incident, blaming himself for the losses. He died of a brain aneurysm just five weeks after the robbery.
Although a direct connection could not be established for use in court, Michael Falvey said that after the robbery the lovable larrikin and dedicated 15-year employee was “never the same”.
In Court it was revealed Fowler was the mastermind behind the theft, evidence including text messages between him and co-offenders Wayne Patu and Jesse Kermode.
Fowler’s defence lawyer Michael Bosscher offered his client’s better days, starting as an Ipswich schoolboy representing Australia, going on to League positions with the Gold Coast Seagulls and North Sydney Bears.
But Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren SC cited Fowler’s knowledge of the Hotel’s routine, the offense aggravated by its degree of planning.
Fowler was sentenced to four years and four months for the charge of robbery in company, and two and half years for the two charges of entering a premise with intent, and serious assault with intent to commit a crime, to be served concurrently. He was also ordered to serve four months of a previously suspended sentence.
Fowler will be eligible to apply for parole in August 2019.