Seven hours spent unpacking meat mincers full of MDMA could cost a man briefly known at the NRL club South Sydney as the “other Sam Burgess” years in jail.
Samuel Gerrey-Burgess and his co-accused Justin Martin Murray are set to be sentenced in the District Court over their “menial” roles in an attempted $57m international drug operation nearly three years ago.
When police arrived at a warehouse in Clyde on October 5, 2018, they found Gerrey-Burgess and Murray unloading the mincers from a shipping container and repackaging about 371kg of what they thought was the party drug.
Unbeknown to them AFP officers had already intercepted the container, sent from Turkey, and replaced the illegal contents with a worthless powder.
The court heard on Thursday the two men had been recruited as “body hire” to carry out the most dangerous part of the drugs journey to Sydney’s west – extracting the goods from where they had been hidden.
Murray sat in the dock wearing a dark suit and tie, with an army of supporters watching on from the gallery.
Directly above his head Gerrey-Burgess appeared on a screen from jail, his hair tied back and wearing prison greens.
Both have pleaded guilty to the attempted possession of a border controlled drug.
Gerrey-Burgess, 26, had overcome a traumatic childhood to obtain a scholarship at prestigious boys’ school St Ignatius College in Riverview and landed professional contracts in rugby league and union.
He never made the grade at South Sydney but played a handful of times for the Canterbury Bulldogs youth team, and eventually signed for Randwick in union.
By October 2018 he had found himself in a downward spiral after a torn ACL halted his career and he became dependent on prescription and illegal drugs, his barrister Michael Ainsworth said.
“The loss of the career … that leads to the offending,” Mr Ainsworth said.
“He looked like he had broken free of the cycle of deprivation and then he’s lost it all.”
Barrister Avni Djemal, representing 31-year-old Murray, said there was no evidence either man knew what was in the mincers until they started unpacking.
“It’s a bit too late, what do you do? Do you ring the police?” he said. “Once that’s happened it’s too hard to pull out. There could be consequences if you just disappeared or just left.”
Judge Nina Yehia did not accept that the men could not have walked away but agreed it appeared as if the duo were at the very lowest rungs of the plot.
She said they were basically recruited as the “unpacking crew” and there was no evidence of a role in an ongoing supply ring.
“What they did was one step in getting the drugs ready for movement out of that warehouse and onto somewhere else,” Judge Yehia said.
The Crown prosecutor argued both Gerrey-Burgess and Murray must have known they were recruited to help out in an illegal activity, but were likely were unaware of its scale.
The court heard a container holding the meat mincers had been delivered to the Gima Supermarket in Auburn before being driven in a truck to the Clyde warehouse linked to local butcher Fatih Adalis.
Adalis was last year handed a four-year jail term for his role in the plot.
He was arrested in Clyde a short distance away from where Gerrey-Burgess and Murray were sprung by police.
The duo will learn their fate on April 12.