Big claim in rugby great’s court battle

Australian rugby great George Gregan has been accused of providing “cooked” text message records to his opponents in a bitter business dispute set for a Federal Court hearing this month.

The Wallabies’ record cap holder is being sued over claims he was part of a secret plot to oust ex-business partner Alexander Goldberg from Sydney-based PTP Fitness.

Mr Gregan, 48, and retired Waratahs player Matthew Dixon have been accused by Mr Goldberg, who founded the exercise equipment company in 2010, of wrongfully terminating his employment.

The former rugby union players have also lodged a cross-claim against Mr Goldberg.

George Gregan is a member of the Rugby Australia Hall Of Fame and a World Cup winner. Picture: AAP Image/Simon BullardSource:AAP

Mr Goldberg’s barrister Robert Stitt QC on Wednesday sought an order to have Mr Gregan and Mr Dixon held in contempt of court and claimed they had withheld crucial evidence under the guise of legal privilege.

“What they’re giving to the court is different to what they’re giving to us,” he said. “These documents are being … cooked.

“It’s not just a question of privilege, it’s a redaction of large parts of the documents which are blacked out or redacted which seem to have no proper forensic purpose for occurring.”

He said the documents being sought were messages exchanged by Mr Gregan and Mr Dixon that could “clearly relate to the oppressive conduct” claimed by Mr Goldberg in his case.

Australia’s last Bledisloe Cup triumph in 2002 came under Gorge Gregan’s captaincy.Source:News Limited

Robert Newlinds SC, acting for both Mr Gregan and Mr Dixon, asked for the proposed order to be struck out and described the application as “hopeless”.

“There is nothing to suggest that even if something has gone wrong it wasn’t an honest mistake,” he said.

“This application should be withdrawn with an apology and we should get to the bottom (of the issues).”

Justice John Halley struck out the proposed order, saying it was “premature”, as there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a contempt charge.

“Given the seriousness of the allegation … order one will be struck out,” he said but added it could be lodged again.

George Gregan holds the record for most Test matches for Australia with 139.Source:News Corp Australia

Mr Newlands said it appeared Mr Dixon had taken it upon himself to collate text messages to be handed over to Mr Goldberg’s lawyers and had removed correspondence he felt was irrelevant.

Mr Newlinds was yet to be informed of the reason for Mr Gregan’s redactions, the court was told.

“I will take this topic under my wing,” Mr Newlinds said. “I will try to get to the bottom of it and report to the court post haste what is the situation.”

Mr Newlinds said his opponents were operating under an incorrect theory that every missing text message would be important to their case: “If we’re wrong then we’ll produce all the messages.”

Mr Stitt accepted that course of action but stressed before Justice Halley any redacted texts needed to be looked at as part of a chronology of events.

“It seems strange to us that at times, when Mr Goldberg is being sacked, there are no messages at all,” he said. “It is our case this was an ongoing campaign to get rid of Mr Goldberg.”

The matter will return to court on Wednesday afternoon, with a nine-day hearing set down to begin on June 15.

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