De Belin treated to raucous standing ovation

A sea of Dragons fans rose for a standing ovation as St George Illawarra star Jack de Belin returned for his first game in the NRL in 992 days.

De Belin tonight turned out for St George Illawarra for the first time since the Dragons’ 2018 semi-final defeat to the Rabbitohs, after the rape charges against him were dropped last week.

The former NSW Blues back-rower, who tonight made his 155th NRL appearance as the Dragons beat the Broncos 52-24, was injected into the action when Daniel Alvaro left play for a head injury assessment in the 29th minute.

De Belin played 26 minutes and finished the match with 12 runs, 81 metres and 17 tackles.

Legendary Eels halfback Peter Sterling said the fact de Belin was returning at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium was a huge plus.

“I think it’s important that his first game back in the top grade was in front of home fans,” Sterling said on Nine’s coverage as de Belin ran onto the field.

“The reaction was a very, very positive one.”

Former Jillaroos star Allana Ferguson was impressed with de Belin’s performance in his comeback game.

“It’s when he does that link play and helps set up that attacking footy that he really has an impact,” Ferguson said.

“He adds an extra layer to their attack.

“What he does do well, and whether it’s in defence or attack, is he’s got that aggression and he’s willing to take the line on. He’ll always put his body on the line for his teammates and it opened up opportunities.”

De Belin played a hand in the Dragons’ first try of the second half, scored by winger Cody Ramsey, prompting praise from Storm icon Billy Slater.

“The beauty of having Jack de Belin coming back into the side is it gives them another ball-player,” Slater said.

“Ben Hunt on the right-hand side on this play – he holds the defence over there.

“And Jack de Belin gets the ball at first receiver, goes nice and deep into the line and creates the overlap for Matt Dufty to throw that beautiful pass and Ramsey does the rest.

“Jack de Belin, he’s a welcome inclusion, just allows that extra ball-player.”

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