Staunch NRL makes ruling on de Belin return

Jack de Belin will be free to play for St George Illawarra for the rest of the 2021 season, following confirmation he will not face a third trial on sexual assault charges.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has indicated it will not seek another trial, after two juries were unable to reach a verdict on five of the six charges. The 30-year-old was found not guilty on the sixth charge.

Once the remaining charges are officially dropped, which is expected to occur on Friday, the NRL has indicated it will register de Belin’s Dragons contract.

“We make no apology for taking the hardest stance in Australian sport where our players are charged with serious criminal offences. We cannot remain indifferent to such charges, particularly those against women,” NRL boss Andrew Abdo said.

“The ‘No-Fault Stand Down’ rule upholds the values of the game, protects the game’s commercial relationships and provides safeguards for the very small number of players who find themselves the subject of serious criminal charges.

“This is an example of our processes working. Jack continued to be employed by the club and was able to extend his contract with the Dragons during the process.

“The rule worked as it should.

“Once there are no longer charges against him, Jack will be free to play. Our welfare team will continue to liaise closely with the Dragons.”

The Dragons forward hasn’t played since he was charged in late 2018, the same year he played all three State of Origin games for New South Wales.

Speaking to media on Thursday afternoon, Abdo denied there was a need to review the NRL’s No-Fault Stand Down policy.

“This is a policy the Commission brought in to protect the game,” Abdo said.

“We’ve found this No-Fault Stand Down policy is fair and reasonable and certainly in the best interests of the game and there will be no review going forward.

“Whether or not he plays on the weekend that will be a matter for the club but we are confident the No-Fault Stand Down policy has operated as intended.”

The Dragons released a statement welcoming de Belin’s return.

“Today’s outcome concludes a tumultuous period for all involved in the Jack de Belin matter,” Dragons CEO Ryan Webb said.

“I wish to thank the support received by our partners, members and fans throughout this entire process.”

Abdo said he is open to speaking with de Belin if he wanted and expected no vilification of abuse from fans would follow as he makes his return to the footy field.

Last September, de Belin agreed to a new deal with the Dragons that the club says runs until at least the end of the 2023 season, with the contract believed to be worth around $700,000 per year.

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