Sent off: Holmwood is escorted from the field. Photo: Brendan EspositoIt’s ain’t over ’til the fat man runs
Police have branded the actions of a serial streaker who interrupted the dying moments of Wednesday night’s Origin decider as ‘‘idiotic and senseless’’, but Wati Holmwood has emerged as an unlikely hero on social media following his 90-metre nude dash.
The tubby 33-year-old from Tempe is being described online variously as a ‘‘legend’’ and a hero who ‘‘deserves a medal’’ after he hurdled the fence at ANZ Stadium and sprinted nearly the length of the field before falling over in front of the goal posts, where he was pounced upon by security.
At least eight Facebook pages have been set up dedicated to the serial streaker, including one page with more than 18,000 followers who are being encouraged to donate money to pay for his expected $5500 fine.
‘‘You can donate 5c, $1 or how ever much you want,’’ the page says.
Dozens of memes also have been posted online, including one in which Holmwood is shown streaking across the finishing line of a 100-metre sprint in front of Usain Bolt.
Holmwood, who was charged after a similar stunt during a sudden-death clash between the Wests Tigers and New Zealand Warriors in 2011, had smeared himself in a Vaseline-like substance on Wednesday night before hurdling onto the field to make it harder for security to tackle him.
But police, and some Origin players, are less than impressed with his actions.
“No one wants to see a grown man running around naked at a footy match and this man can expect to not only feel the wrath of the crowd but also a magistrate,’’ said Chief Superintendent Peter Gillam, who was in charge of the police operation at ANZ Stadium.
‘‘Sadly one man’s actions disrupted the game during a crucial time. His running onto the field and into the middle of the play was not only dangerous but also idiotic and senseless.’’
Other social media users have blasted Holmwood’s streak, which came just two minutes and 10 seconds before the final siren.
His stunt meant match officials were forced to restart play in the form of a scrum – and a further set of six tackles – to the Maroons, denying the Blues the chance to snatch victory.
Some fans were furious, saying he ruined the game and should cop a bigger fine for his actions.
Holmwood was covered in a blanket and marched from the field on Wednesday night, before being taken to Auburn Police Station, where it is understood he did not co-operate with officers during the interview.
He was charged with wilful and obscene exposure, and entering or remaining on a playing field without authorisation. He is due to appear in Burwood Local Court on August 6.
Police said he also would be banned from all future events at ANZ Stadium, while it is understood the NRL will impose a life-time ban on him for all rugby league matches.
Holmwood was charged by police in 2011 after he streaked onto Allianz Stadium during the first half of a match between the Wests Tigers and New Zealand Warriors.
At the time, one commentator said Holmwood’s tubby figure was sprinting across the field ‘‘like there was a free buffet beneath the goalposts’’.
After reaching one try line, he turned around and began sprinting back upfield, evading the first security guard who attempted to tackle him.
A second security guard wrestled him to the ground, where he was arrested.
Holmwood was charged in 2011 with wilful and obscene exposure in public, as well as assaulting a security guard who tried to apprehend him.
When he faced court for the first time the following month, he was wearing a T-shirt and a pair of shorts.
Part of his bail conditions at the time required him to not drink in a public place or come within 500 metres of Allianz Stadium.
He pleaded guilty to those offences, was fined $800 and placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond.
Court documents show he was on a good-behaviour bond at the time of last night’s alleged offence.
NSW coach Laurie Daley labelled the incident as “silly behaviour”.
“What more do you say?” Daley said. “I didn’t know what the rule was. I knew a try wouldn’t be allowed.”
“Obviously disappointed we didn’t get the six set of six.”
While it appeared Holmwood stopped what appeared a certain Maroons try, Blues captain Robbie Farah said the incident hindered his own team.
“It was tough for us because of the ruling at the time. It was the fifth tackle and they got a scrum feed with a full set of six,” Farah said.
“There were only two or three minutes left in the game, it wasn’t ideal for us…
“I didn’t notice him until right at the end there when he was on the ground. I was too occupied to notice him.”
Queensland coach Mal Meninga said the “big, fat fella” cost Matt Scott a certain try.
“I thought he did very well,” Meninga said of the way Holmwood evaded his pursuers.
“It was disruptive. It cost us a try. We handled it … Silly, ridiculous it does happen in Origin, in sport, but it does happen.”
With Adrian Proszenko
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.