Matai cleared of head-butting charge

Manly Sea Eagles centre Steve Matai has been cleared of head-butting a man in a Sydney hotel last year. Matai had been charged with assaulting 31-year-old Joseph Nasser at the Surf Rock Hotel at Collaroy on June 10, 2006.

But yesterday Sydney Magistrate Janet Wahlquist at Downing Centre Local Court dismissed the charge.

Matai, 22, had earlier pleaded not guilty to the assault charge.

The court heard that a scuffle took place after Nasser made a derogatory comment about Matai's teammate and former Test star Ben Kennedy's bald head. Nasser claimed that Matai then assaulted him. But two security guards on duty that night told the court Nasser was the aggressor.

"As he's walked in, I just heard him, he said something like `You bald c***' and just kept walking," security guard Phil Purcell told AAP.

Mr Purcell and security guard Shane Maguire told the court that a scuffle developed and Nasser and Matai had to be restrained.

But Nasser broke free and proceeded to lunge at Matai, Mr Maguire told the court.

"The Manly player was held from behind and he lowered his head to defend himself and they might have touched heads," Mr Maguire said.

Nasser admitted he had consumed five drinks before arriving at the club, but denied he was the aggressor.

The magistrate said the security guard's evidence cast doubt on the head-butting claim before dismissing the charges.

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