New Zealand cricketer Jesse Ryder
New Zealand cricketer Jesse Ryder

Witness describes 'sickening' attack on NZ cricketer

A WITNESS to the brutal bashing of Wellington cricket player Jesse Ryder has described hearing the blows as his alleged attackers kicked him while he was lying on the ground.

The cricket star remains fighting for his life in Christchurch Hospital this morning after two early morning attacks yesterday outside a Merivale bar.

He is suffering a fractured skull and a punctured lung and is in an induced coma with family and his manager by his side.

The troubled sportsman had been enjoying a quiet "few drinks" with Wellington Firebirds teammates on Wednesday night.

When he went to leave Aikman's Bar, in Merivale, around 12.30am he was attacked by "at least two" men, police said at a packed media conference.

The burly cricketer crossed the road to follow Firebirds teammates who'd gone to McDonalds.

But two men followed him, and one viciously assaulted him again.

A Christchurch HR manager, Emma-Louise Ferguson said she was shocked at the "unbelievably brutal" violence meted out to Ryder as he lay prone on the ground outside Aikmans Bar.

Ms Ferguson is no stranger to fighting after taking on Hayley Holt in a charity boxing match in 2011.

She said she was having a quiet drink with friends when she saw three or four men set upon Ryder just outside the bar's entrance just after 12.30am Thursday.

As far as she could see, it was an unprovoked attack on the former Black Caps batsman.

"There was a group of guys in there having a few drinks.

"There were eight to 10 of them. Everyone was pretty relaxed, it didn't look like anyone was intoxicated. It was just an idle Wednesday night with about 20 people in the bar.

"Just around 12.30am, I look up and three or four guys were attacking Jesse.

"There didn't seem to be any argument or anything. They were just punching him, they had him on the ground and they were kicking him hard. It was unbelievably brutal. It was literally right outside the door of the bar.

"When he was on the ground, I couldn't actually see him but I could hear the they were kicking him as hard as they could. I know about impact, I've seen fights and been in (charity boxing) fights and this was sickening.

"I can't understand what could have caused them to attack him in such a way.''

A friend of Ms Ferguson intervened and helped pull the attackers away, she said.

Police have said that Ryder was then attacked for a second time in the carpark of a McDonald's restaurant across the road, where he sustained the worst of his injuries.

Ryder's mother and his agent Aaron Klee have flown to be with him.

Detective Senior Sergeant Brian Archer said the bar had handed over to police security camera footage of the attack and police were trying to work out who the assailants were.

The four men ran off when emergency services were called.

Mr Archer asked those behind the attack to come forward, adding: "We will be looking for them."

Heath Mills of New Zealand Cricket Players Association said he was aware that Ryder had drunk alcohol in recent weeks and was working with him.

He confirmed that Ryder had been having "a few drinks with his teammates at conclusion of season".

But he stressed the assault was "not an alcohol fuelled incident".

Aikmans Bar general manager Steve Holmes claimed that the mother of one of the men who attacked Ryder was there when it happened.

Mr Holmes said the attackers tried to get back into the bar after the assault but were blocked by bar staff.

The mother of one of the men then began arguing for them to be allowed back in before they all left.

Prime Minister John Key described the attack as "extremely vicious" and wished Ryder a speedy recovery.

Blackcap and senior squad member Grant Elliott said they were all waiting for some good news.

"It's not great, is it?" he said.

"But we don't know how serious it is. We're not too sure what's happening - it's all pretty confidential at the hospital. We're all just hoping for the best."

Ryder had been due to depart New Zealand next week to join the Delhi Daredevils for this year's edition of the Indian Premier League where he was bought by the franchise for $USD260,000 (NZD310,577) in February's player auction.

- APNZ, NZ Herald and Herald on Sunday

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