Sprinter Laura Whaler was left with $21,500 in traffic fines after breaking up with boyfriend


A champion sprinter who represented Australia says she was left owing $21,500 in parking and traffic infringements after breaking up with a long-term boyfriend.

Laura Whaler, who competed at the World Championships alongside Olympic gold medallist Sally Pearson, has been hit with 53 fines accumulated over 18 months. 

The 33-year-old Indigenous athlete told Daily Mail Australia she was not the person behind the wheel and the fines were racked up during a relationship which ended in late 2019.

Whaler is now eight months into a happy relationship with 40-year-old former Parramatta Eels player Eric Grothe Jr, who is supporting her fight to clear her name.

‘Eric’s unreal,’ she said. ‘He’s so supportive. He just wants to be able to move forward with me without this s***.’

Champion springer Laura Whaler, who competed alongside Olympic gold medallist Sally Pearson, has been hit with 53 parking and driving fines accumulated over 18 months. She says she was not driving when the fines were accrued and will contest them in court

Champion springer Laura Whaler, who competed alongside Olympic gold medallist Sally Pearson, has been hit with 53 parking and driving fines accumulated over 18 months. She says she was not driving when the fines were accrued and will contest them in court 

Whaler is now happily in a relationship with former Parramatta Eels player Eric Grothe Jr, who is supporting her in the fight to clear her name. 'Eric's unreal,' she told Daily Mail Australia. 'He's so supportive.' The couple is pictured together

Whaler is now happily in a relationship with former Parramatta Eels player Eric Grothe Jr, who is supporting her in the fight to clear her name. ‘Eric’s unreal,’ she told Daily Mail Australia. ‘He’s so supportive.’ The couple is pictured together

Whaler, who grew up at East Maitland in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, began running at Little Athletics aged four was a professional athlete from 18. She is pictured in her Indigenous running top competing in the Australian Athletics Championships in Perth in 2010

Whaler, who grew up at East Maitland in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, began running at Little Athletics aged four was a professional athlete from 18. She is pictured in her Indigenous running top competing in the Australian Athletics Championships in Perth in 2010

Whaler has engaged lawyers to challenge the fines and will give evidence at a hearing at Downing Centre Local Court in June.

‘I’ve never ever been to a court in my whole life,’ she said. ‘It’s just the principle of the the thing.’ 

It is not suggested Whaler’s ex-boyfriend has blamed her for the driving offences. 

Whaler, who grew up at East Maitland in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, began running at Little Athletics aged four and was a professional athlete from 18. 

She specialised in the 100m and 200m sprints with personal best times of 11.46 and 23.45. 

Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning runner turned television personality Tamsyn Lewis (now Manou) described Whaler as having ‘the best sprinter’s arse imaginable’ as a 23-year-old. 

‘She’s a wonderful prospect and could be the next big thing for Australian athletics,’ Lewis told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2010.

‘Laura is a talented runner, she is articulate, she’s extremely marketable… and she has the best sprinter’s arse imaginable. 

‘Yeah, plenty of girls are jealous of Laura’s backside.’

Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning runner Tamsyn Lewis (now Manou) described Whaler as having 'the best sprinter's arse imaginable' as a 23-year-old. Whaler is pictured with Olympic running legend Usain Bolt at Melbourne's Flemington racecourse on Derby Day

Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning runner Tamsyn Lewis (now Manou) described Whaler as having ‘the best sprinter’s arse imaginable’ as a 23-year-old. Whaler is pictured with Olympic running legend Usain Bolt at Melbourne’s Flemington racecourse on Derby Day

Whaler has engaged lawyers to challenge the fines and will give evidence at a hearing at Downing Centre Local Court in June. 'I've never ever been to a court in my whole life,' she said. 'It's just the principle of the the thing.' Whaler is pictured outside court on Tuesday

Whaler has engaged lawyers to challenge the fines and will give evidence at a hearing at Downing Centre Local Court in June. ‘I’ve never ever been to a court in my whole life,’ she said. ‘It’s just the principle of the the thing.’ Whaler is pictured outside court on Tuesday

Since her retirement from professional athletics five years ago Whaler has worked as an executive assistant for a global private equity firm. 

She says her troubles can be traced to financing an Audi A3 which was used by her boyfriend of eight years but registered in her name. 

Her then boyfriend worked in sales and drove regularly across Sydney while Whaler caught a train each day into the city from their western suburbs home.

From about the middle of 2018 to the end of 2019 the Audi was repeatedly detected parked illegally, disobeying traffic signs and dodging road tolls.

‘I was at work nearly ever single time there was an infringement,’ Whaler said. 

Whaler said she did not receive notices of the infringements or further written warnings. The fines eventually reached $21,500 and her licence was taken away.

Since her retirement from professional athletics five years ago Whaler has worked as an executive assistant for a global private equity firm. She is pictured on the red carpet at the Women in Sports Awards in Sydney in 2014

Since her retirement from professional athletics five years ago Whaler has worked as an executive assistant for a global private equity firm. She is pictured on the red carpet at the Women in Sports Awards in Sydney in 2014

Whaler's career highlight was representing Australia in the 4 x 100m relay at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. Her fellow runners in that event were Melissa Breen, Charlotte van Veenendaal and Sally Pearson. Whaler is pictured with Pearson in Sydney

Whaler’s career highlight was representing Australia in the 4 x 100m relay at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. Her fellow runners in that event were Melissa Breen, Charlotte van Veenendaal and Sally Pearson. Whaler is pictured with Pearson in Sydney 

‘It was extremely stressful for me being on my own knowing that debt was hanging over me,’ she said. ‘My independence was taken away.’

‘It’s been a shocking year and a half. I just want my freedom back and the only way to do that is to go through this.’

The 53 fines were issued in five local government areas but have been consolidated by the prosecution so they can all be dealt with in one court. 

Barrister David Elliott told a registrar on Tuesday if the matter could not be simplified Whaler might need 10 minutes to explain each of the 53 offences. That would mean more than eight hours in the witness box. 

‘This has been hanging over my head too long,’ Whaler said. ‘It’s been a debilitating process. It’s time that it was sorted so I can get on with my life.’ 

Whaler’s career highlight was representing Australia in the 4 x 100m relay at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. 

Her fellow runners in that event were Melissa Breen, Charlotte van Veenendaal and Sally Pearson.

Whaler suffered a hip injury before the 2012 London Olympics at which Pearson won the gold medal in the 100m hurdles.



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