Footy star Jack de Belin to return to the NRL within days after sexual assault charges against him were DROPPED
- Sexual assault charges against Jack de Belin and Callan Sinclair will be dropped
- The Dragons forward and co-accused were the facing prospect of another trial
- The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution said charges will be withdrawn
- It means the star will register a new contract with St George Illawarra
Jack de Belin will play his first game of rugby league in more than two years on Saturday, ending an exile from the sport while he defended rape charges that are set to be withdrawn.
St George Illawarra expect to register a new contract for de Belin with the NRL on Friday to begin his path back into first grade once the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions withdraws charges at a hearing.
It will bring to an end a tumultuous period for all involved in the high-profile case.
Two trials failed to reach a verdict on de Belin, 30, and co-accused, Callan Sinclair, 24, on charges relating to an alleged sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman in Wollongong in December, 2018.
De Belin is pictured with his partner Alyce Taylor. He’s expected to be eligible to return for the Dragons from next week
De Belin, 30, and co-accused Callan Sinclair (pictured), 24, were facing the prospect of another trial later this year after trials in Sydney and Wollongong resulted in hung juries
But with lawyers for the prosecution now indicating they will not press forward with a third trial, the Dragons will begin preparing de Belin’s return to the field.
‘It’s a situation where there are no winners, but it’s a good opportunity now to close the chapter and look ahead and move forward from something that’s been hanging with the club now for a bit over two years,’ said Dragons chief executive Ryan Webb.
‘We’re hoping his contract will be registered tomorrow (Friday) and he’ll be available to play reserve grade on Saturday against the Wests Magpies.’
The former NSW Origin forward has been training with the Dragons’ reserve grade side this year and on his own while he was subject to the NRL’s no-fault stand down rules.
De Belin’s last game for the Dragons was in September 2018. He signed a new four-year deal with Dragons at the end of 2020 when his previous contract expired, after also fielding interest from the Warriors
He trained with the NRL side in 2019 and 2020 while stood down, and will re-join his first grade teammates for training next week.
De Belin hasn’t played a rugby league match since the end of 2018, and Webb expects he could spend a few weeks playing NSW Cup until coach Anthony Griffin decides he is physically ready for NRL competition.
‘He’s a young man who’s been out of the game for a couple of years now so I’d expect there’d be a few weeks needed in first grade to work his way back,’ Webb said.
The NRL has defended the no-fault stand down policy, saying it acted as intended while de Belin was stood down and the rule would not be reconsidered.
Sexual assault charges against Jack de Belin will be dropped, it was revealed on Thursday. He is pictured leaving court on May 10
It comes as St George Illawarra chairman Andrew Gordon demanded a review into the policy.
‘This is a policy the commission brought in to protect the game and to act in the best interest of the game, and you have to balance out taking into account all stakeholders,’ NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.
‘As far as I’m concerned, we’ve had this matter tested in the Federal Court, we’ve been through an arbitration process with the players’ association, and on both counts we’ve found this no-fault stand down is fair and reasonable and certainly is in the best interests of the game.
‘As far as I’m aware there will be no review of this policy going forward.’