Rugby League’s moment of truth arrives on Thursday when a ruling is made on the future of Jack De Belin, who is the latest in a succession of players charged over incidences of violence or sexual misconduct against women
Rugby league’s moment of truth arrives on Thursday when a ruling is made on the future of Jack De Belin.
He is the latest in a succession of players charged over incidences of violence or sexual misconduct against women.
The sport has endured a nightmarish summer publicity-wise, as a slew of high-profile players got caught up in matters that ranged from the seriously criminal to sleazy and juvenile.
The De Belin matter was shaping as a test case for the sport, and an opportunity to signal how it proceeds in the future on incidence involving violence against women.
The St George-Illawarra player has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated sexual assault against a 19-year-old woman.
He wants to be allowed to train and play while awaiting trial, on the principle of being innocent until proven guilty.
Allowing him to play will be a publicity black eye for the sport, and NRL boss Todd Greenberg reportedly met with him on Wednesday to try to persuade him to step down voluntarily until his case is finalised – which De Belin refused.
Sam Burgess claims behaviour around the league is ‘as good as it’s been’ despite dozens of players being charged with serious crimes
The Australian Rugby League Commission was widely expected to stand him down when it makes its ruling on Thursday.
But the player and his club were reportedly considering legal injunctions should that happen – with the backing of the Rugby League Players Association.
Following on from high-profile cases over the summer involving big names such as Jarryd Hayne and Ben Barba, the De Belin case further deepened the sport’s image problem that had driven away sponsors and alienated female fans.
However, some in the game did not see any problem, with South Sydney star Sam Burgess saying on Wednesday that player behaviour was ‘as good as ever’.
Just days earlier, his teammate Greg Inglis said exactly the opposite in admitting making a mistake leading to a drink driving charge in October
Jarryd Hayne (left) and Jack De Belin (right) were both charged with rape
Burgess, who was himself involved in a recent sexting scandal and a split from his wife, seemed unperturbed by the constant succession of violent incidences plaguing the sport.
Burgess has denied involvement in the scandal.
‘There’s been some terrible coverage in the press but player behaviour is probably as good as it’s been over the years,’ Burgess said at the Fox League launch.
‘It’s just more reported on, things catch fire a lot quicker. For all the negative press, there’s some fantastic role models and great players.’
Just days earlier, his South Sydney teammate Greg Inglis said exactly the opposite while admitting his own mistakes following a drink driving charge in October.
‘Player behaviour has probably been the worst it has [been],’ he said last Thursday.
‘I’ve had my incident there, I put my hand up and owned it. I can’t speak on behalf of the other players, but it (behaviour) needs to be definitely addressed.’
De Belin’s fate will decided within hours.
Burgess seemed oblivious to the 17 scandals, some involving half a dozen players, since September that have stained the sport
The Australian Rugby League Commission will on Thursday decide whether De Belin (pictured with his partner Alyce Taylor) will be stood down as he fights the charges against him
St George-Illawarra believes its star player should be considered innocent until proven guilty and allowed to play on until he is convicted.
De Belin next faces court on April 17 charged with aggravated sexual assault on the teenager in a Wollongong unit in December.
He allegedly repeatedly raped her while his friend Callan Sinclair, 21, watched on, causing her injuries to her legs, neck, lower abdomen and shoulder.
Any change in ARLC policy is opposed by the Rugby League Players Association, which said it would help banned players sue the NRL if it went ahead.
Ben Barba was also handed a life ban after allegedly punching his girlfriend in the head at a Townsville casino in January
He was sacked by North Queensland after the club viewed CCTV of the incident and is now a metalworker in Mackay
Meanwhile, Hayne is accused of continuing to have sex with a woman after she ‘withdrew consent’, and biting her on the genitals so hard she needed surgery.
Hayne allegedly met the 26-year-old woman on social media and took a taxi to the house she shared with her mother in Newcastle.
He then took another cab back to Sydney to drink with another NRL player until 3am. Taxis cost about $435 for that trip.
Hayne has denied any wrongdoing.
Ben Barba was also handed a life ban after allegedly punching his girlfriend in the head at a Townsville casino in January.
He was sacked by North Queensland after the club viewed CCTV of the incident and is now a metalworker in Mackay.
Dylan Napa also ended up in hot water when a series of sex tapes were leaked online showing him having sex with a woman while grinning or gesturing to the camera
Napa maintains he doesn’t know who leaked the two videos which were circulated on social media in January
Barba’s ban followed a history of off-field incidents including a drunken car park brawl with teammates, allegedly punching a woman, and a positive drug test.
Canterbury Bulldogs recruit Dylan Napa also ended up in hot water when a series of sex tapes were leaked online showing him having sex with a woman while grinning or gesturing to the camera.
In the first, he leans in to the woman and refers to himself as ‘Big Papi’.
Another video surfaced showing a bizarre act involving genitalia, and Napa took the unusual step of dropping his pants for club bosses to prove the video was not of him.
NRL’s summer from hell
September 4 – Pictures are published of Canterbury players dancing nude during their Mad Monday celebrations. The club was fined $250,000 and Adam Elliott and Asipeli Fine both pleaded guilty to wilful and obscene exposure.
September 30 – Jarryd Hayne is alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman after travelling to her home in the Hunter region on NRL grand final night. He has been charged with aggravated sexual assault and has pleaded not guilty.
October 1 – Greg Inglis is charged with speeding and drink-driving while returning from an indigenous tournament in Dubbo. He was stripped of the Australian captaincy and handed an 18-month good behaviour bond.
October 13 – Parramatta’s Jaeman Salmon is charged with drink driving after a traffic accident in which he flipped his car and hit three parked vehicles. He was convicted and disqualified from driving for six months. He has also been stood down from round one and fined $10,000.
November 24 – Wests Tigers’ Zane Musgrove and Penrith’s Liam Coleman are involved in an alleged incident at a Coogee hotel. The pair have pleaded not guilty to indecently assaulting a 22-year-old woman.
December 2 – Newcastle prop Jacob Saifiti suffers a broken leg after being knocked out in a fight outside a pub. He was not charged by police but is fined $25,000.
December 6 – Dylan Walker is charged with common assault following an alleged domestic violence incident at his Dee Why home. He has pleaded not guilty. His partner has retracted her original statements made to police in which she claimed he pulled her hair, causing her to fall.
December 13 – Jack de Belin is charged with the aggravated sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman. He has pleaded not guilty.
December 21 – Six Cronulla lower-grade players are involved in a scuffle at the Cronulla Sailing Club. The nightclub banned the entire Sharks playing group. The six players were all fined.
December 25 – Brisbane’s Myles Taueli shatters a man’s jaw with a coward punch only weeks after being drafted into the Broncos’ top 30 squad. He has been convicted of assault, jailed for two years and has had his Broncos contract torn up.
December 26 – Newcastle’s Tautau Moga allegedly slaps a taxi driver. He has been charged with common assault and will appear in court on March 21.
December 30 – Wests Tigers utility Michael Chee Kam is alleged to have punched a ride share driver. He has been charged with common assault.
January 7 – Scott Bolton pleads guilty to common assault after grabbing a woman’s upper thigh at a Sydney bar. He was given a 12-month good behaviour bond.
January 11 – The first of three lewd videos involving Dylan Napa emerge on the internet, all of which show the Queensland prop engaging in a sexual act.
January 15 – A video emerges of Corey Norman watching on as a man snorts a white substance off a plate. Norman was sanctioned by the NRL for the video in 2016.
February 1 – Ben Barba is sacked by North Queensland after the club views CCTV of an alleged domestic incident at a Townsville casino. He has been handed a life ban by the NRL.
February 20 – Brisbane’s Haas is stood down for four games and fined $20,000 for failing to comply with an integrity unit investigation.
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