Watching the sunset slowly filter through the sky, I heard another roar of laughter.
'Looking good guys!' someone cackled, as Dame Edna, Olivia Newton-John and Michael Jordan traipsed through the party.
It was New Year’s Eve and we were having a dress-up celebration at my mate Matt’s place.
Some of my friends had brought their kids and my beautiful partner Laila, 39, and I were excited to see in midnight together.
Matt had set up two marquees on a tennis court next to his home. Delicious lamb had been carved from the spit, drinks were flowing, people were dancing and everybody was having a brilliant time.
A little while after the clock struck 12, the party started to wind down.
Heading outside, I realised a group of strange men were running up the driveway.Suddenly, they set on one of my friends, attacking and bashing him severely.
‘Hey!’ Laila shouted, as I put a protective arm around her. ‘Stop that!’
Stopping the assault, the men disappeared back into the darkness.
But minutes later, they returned with more friends.
There must’ve been about 15 of them – and they were carrying pieces of wood and other weapons.
As they headed towards the tennis court, I ran to another entrance to try and stop them.
Then using knives and even a meat cleaver from our lamb spit, the intruders started wildly attacking us all.
I saw one come at my friend Max with a knife.
Putting his hands up to defend himself, the man slashed through his palm.
I was horrified.
‘Call the police!’ someone shouted.
‘Why weren’t we invited?’ one thug yelled out. ‘We own this street!’
Then one of them ran at me with a tree branch.
I felt a sickening thud I felt her weight and as blood clouded my vision, everything went black.
‘I love you,’ she kept saying.
Still, the chaos continued.
When one of the guests started desperately fighting back, the attackers retreated.
With several of my friends scattered along the tennis court, reeling in pain, we desperately needed help.
Someone had struck Matt in the eye while I was out cold, and blood was splattered all over his face.
Emergency services soon arrived. But police and ambos ran into the attackers on their way out and heard their side of the story first.
Traipsing into our place, they were ready to make arrests. Upon seeing us, it didn’t take long for them to realise who the real victims were.
Everyone gave statements, cradling vicious wounds and blinking blood out of our eyes.
By now it was early morning New Year's Day, and most of us needed medical attention.
Heading straight to hospital, I had a CAT scan.
Full of adrenaline, I’d barely registered how hurt I was.
But in the cowardly attack, I’d suffered a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain.
Other guests had cuts and bruises to their heads, faces, arms and legs, and Matt had a broken eye socket.
I needed immediate surgery.
Unable to walk properly and suffering memory loss, I stayed in hospital for a week.
I had to take so much time off work, I lost my business.
But why had we been so brutally injured during a time of celebration and laughter?
In time, two men were charged with the attack but we still had no answers.
Four years later, Laila and I were in a romantic restaurant in Prague.
‘Will you marry me?’ I asked her. And she said yes!
If it wasn’t for Laila, be here.
It took more than five years for justice to be served.
In February, Jason Edwin Brady, 25, and Isaac Derek Lee Parsons, 26, appeared at the South Australian District Court and denied everything.
The jury heard how guests tried to reason with them, but ‘the gatecrashers were not there to talk’.
‘The atmosphere on the tennis court changed quickly from being relaxed and happy to being mayhem,’ added the prosecutor.
Thankfully, they were each found guilty of five aggravated counts of intentionally causing harm and two aggravated counts of assault, and sentenced to eight years behind bars.
A youth who was 17 at the time was also convicted for his part in the attack.
While we were relieved the legal proceedings were over, my friends and I still bear physical and psychological scars from that night.
What was supposed to be a fun and memorable evening of celebration turned into a nightmare.
Looking back, I am proud of how my friends and I had protected each other.
No-one was prepared for such a random and unprovoked assault.
If the attackers had asked to join us for a beer, we would have happily invited them all in.
Instead we were forced to fight for our lives.